Chillin' at Camaya

Monday, May 4, 2009

Camaya Coast Aquathlon Challenge
(3.5km beach & trail run - 1.5km open water swim - 3.5km beach & trail run)
May 2, Saturday, Summer of 2009

The first time I read about the Camaya Coast Aquathlon and Beach & Trail Run in the firstwavetri yahoogroup, I was already hooked. I MUST join this race. I have already done my first 2 aquathlons in the first quarter of 2009, but I haven't experienced an open water race, a beach run nor a trail run. The single biggest factor however was the fact that the event would happen in a beach resort setting. I looked at the photos of the Camaya Coast and I instantly fell in love with the place. Having grown up in the mountain-and-hotspring resort town of Los Banos, I have had enough of hills and hotsprings. I love my hometown, but my idea of a real summer getaway is lazing around on a beach. With my May race calendar fully booked with weekend races, the Camaya Coast aquathlon would be my 2009 summer getaway, with outing taking precedence over racing.

I was so bent on having this summer outing, err, racing, I would join even if I was alone. Worst case, I would race and then lie on the beach and read a book. Best case I would mingle and meet new friends. However, outings are way more fun if done with friends so I did invite fellow new aquathletes Ian and MJ, and some runners from people. Ian readily agreed, MJ was out of country, Bong Z needed some more convincing, while the rest of my friends seemed lukewarm on the idea of a beach and trail run (why people why?). Bong it turned out was a fellow 2009 Ateneo Aquathon finisher, while Ian was a 'classmate' from our very first aquathlon in Speedo Aquathon Ultra. Thankfully, I was able to convince Bong to try for longer distance swim by pacing with him for a trial 1.5km swim (kudos to Bong for facing up (and rising well) to the challenge!). Eventually, Cathy and her friends saw the value in the beach and trail run and signed up for it. Great, I think we have sufficient quorum. There were even recent acquaintances Ziggy and Glenn who were registered for the aquathlon. Ellen would be joining us too as unofficial photographer and default cheerleader. This would be fun.

With giddy excitement, I prepared for the race and the outing. As I usually experience calf muscle tightness in the first 2 kms of road races, I was apprehensive I might develop cramps in this 3.5K run - 1.5K swim - 3.5K run challenge. I therefore practiced transitions 1 and 2 with Bong Z. We would even bump into Ian in the pool area. I practiced swimming alone for distance of up to 3km so 1.5km would feel like a beach stroll. With the race side taken cared of, I packed my summer outing backpack with loads of food. For me, long-distance outing meant munching on the road (or boat or plane). I was packed and ready.

Race day began at 4am with participants assembling in the resort office in EDSA-Boni for a 3-hr bus ride to Mariveles port. As this was our summer outing, we began clicking away our cameras as soon as we boarded the bus.

Bong, Ellen, Cathy and Jihan: fresh as Saturday morning
Participants were ferried to the site in 2 buses. Excited folks that we were, we were in bus 1.

Myself, Ian, Jihan and Cathy after taking our Jollibee breakfast along NLEX

Ian, Ziggy and myself: Sun was already up in Bataan but we were still clowning around.

3hrs after leaving Manila we were on Mariveles port
for a 30-min short boat ride to Camaya Coast

Myself, Bong and Ziggy: Aquamen excited to board the boat.
Si Ian yata mas excited nasa loob na ng bangka.

Now this trip was really beginning to feel like a trip to Boracay

Finally we were on the shores of Boracay, err, Camaya Coast pala.
Notice that while training buddy Bong was itching to race with his trail shoes on, I was ready to lounge on the beach with my flip-flops. Hehe.

Posing in the main pavilion of Camaya Coast. Ganda ng place!

Another proof of my outing mode: I already had a free henna tattoo
even before being bodymarked for the race. Hehe.

With my henna tattoo already dried up, I was now ready for race bodymark.

Ooops, I forgot I also signed up for a race - and not just free transportation, resort entrance and free food. After the arrival of the second bus and quick race briefings, the aquathlon and trail run started simultaneously - en masse - on the beautiful beach of Camaya Coast.

Aquathletes and trail runners first run to the far end of the beach,
make a U-turn and traverse the beach once again...

(From left: Glenn, Ziggy, Vince, Ian, Bong after the U-turn....myself at the back of the pack.)
Akala ko ba chill run lang 'to?

before entering the coconut groves and then the hilly forested area.

Posing with Ellen within the coconut grove: This is how you do a chill run
Caution: You will end up last doing this. Waah!!!

Now this is my idea of beautiful trails. Creek, rocks, trees: lovely

Why, there was even a charming bamboo bridge?
But don't let the beautiful photos deceive you. It was a mean, challenging trail,
with narrow paths and steep inclines. Whew!

My strategy for the first run was to take it easy. I needed to save my legs for the swim. It was supposed to be a chill run for me, but the mass start saw everyone scampering along the beach sand. For all its fabled beauty, loose, fine sand is NOT ideal for running. As much as possible everyone ran on the wet, compact sand near the waterline, but inevitably we had to hit the dry, loose sand. Waah, ang hirap tumakbo! This scampering on soft sand caused some tightness in my lower legs that I had to really slow down entering into the coconut groves. I would NOT want to suffer cramps during the open water swim. Ellen was nearby trying to take photos, and chill-mode me paused for 2-3 minutes posing for posterity. Needless to say I was left behind. But I was not really bothered at that time. I was just chillin', remember?

I was so smitten by the beauty of the trail (the resort's hiking trail to the waterfalls actually) that I went to contemplative/nostalgic mode again. In the middle of a race! As I passed through the narrow (about a meter) ground trail surrounded by trees, exotic plants and criss-crossed by charming brook, I was transported to my freshman year at high school. My high school buddies JC, Joaquin and I (and occasionally the whole class!) would opt to take the backtrail to UPLB Baker Hall where we had PE class instead of taking the jeepney ride. The trail meant passing through a foot-wide forest floor trail, with lush shrubs and giant, century old trees forming a vast canopy. We would walk through this foot trail in our uniforms and leather shoes (yes, leathers!) and sometimes run whenever we scare each other shitless with unfounded fears of baboy ramo and giant snakes (the boar had been probably driven off into the hinterlands, the occasion
al snake was no means considered giant, not even big). The memory was strongest when I reached the rocks as I crossed the creek. Our trail to Baker Hall meant crossing the Molawin Creek, where we would deliberately hang-out to catch guppies by hand, or the occasional tilapia if we were lucky with the aquarium fish net. I never realized till now that I was into 'fishing' then. JC would end up being a biologist (specializing on fish and birds), would discover a species of local bird (or was it fish?), and would now be in Oxford University, UK doing what he loves. You are a lucky guy, my friend!

I snapped out of the memory lane when I heard footsteps. I knew I was already in the last pack of the aquathletes, but I got the shock when even the slowest of the recreational tra
il runners were catching up on me. Only then did it hit me. Sh*t, I think I would end up last on my 3rd aquathlon. This was a chill run/swim for me, yes, but I did not want to end up last. Certainly not now on my 3rd triathlon. Only then did I decide to run and scamper to the beach.

This is where we had our open water swim.

I took my sweet time during the first leg thinking I could still catch up on the swim leg. But I was several minutes behind. When I reached swim transition area, there were just few swimmers left, and most of them were already in their second and last loop. I was the last swimmer. Oh boy, poor boy! I spent some time in transition area to eat a piece of mooncake and down a bottle full of water. I entered the water confident I have done my swim homework. To soften the run to swim transition, I began with breaststroke. Soon enough I began my crawl which I had been practicing for weeks, even months. I was swimming effortlessly and strong - but in the wrong direction! I couldn't swim straight in the wavy, open water. My swim strategy was to stick close to the buoy at all costs. Unfortunately, I happen to breathe on my right side while the buoy line would be on my left the whole swim leg. Oh boy, I failed to consider that. I should have learned to breathe on any side. I could handle waves and occasional accidental swallowing of water, but I needed to see where I was supposed to go.

Exasperated with my zigzagging freestyle, I reverted to breaststroke. Days before I was kidding and encouraging training partner Bong that his breaststroke was actually more suited for open water, especially if there were waves. Risk-averse me considered reviving my long dormant breaststroke during practice swim, but busy me failed to do that. Proud me thought I could actually go faster if I stuck with the crawl. I was wrong. Dead wrong. And Bong had a good swim. So there I was in the open water alternating between crawl and breaststroke. At one point I tried to draft behind a strong freestyling swimmer, trying to apply what blogger Javy did in pool races before, but I ended up still veering away from a straight path. I just couldn't navigate well. Breaststroking me eventually managed to overtake the last two female aquathletes also suffering from the crawl, but I was really way behind the last of the men's group. I had no more swimmers to swim with or realistically overtake. Most of them were on their second loop already, or were already doing their second run.

The lone bright spot in my swim was when an aquathlete passed by me during my first loop. The guy in trisuit passed by me during the course part parallel to the beach. I noticed this guy had good swim form and seemed to know what he was doing so I decided to follow him. I was thrilled to know I could actually keep up with him freestyle so I became emboldened and swam faster alongside this guy (about half a meter away). For 50-100 meters or so, I swam along. I was swimming effortlessly and felt I was in the zone. The experience was actually surreal. It felt like swimming with a dolphin. I remembered 1988 six-time Olymic gold winner Matt Biondi remarking then that he trained by swimming with dolphins. This Camaya experience was probably the closet I could come to swimming with dolphins. I also realised then that if I wanted to swim to the best of my abilities, I must swim alongside good swimmers.

I wanted to swim alongside the human dolphin till the end but I lost him when he made the 90-degree turn towards the shore. Shocks, I haven't practiced sharp turns so I got disoriented for a while. Darn, I lost my navigator and pacer. This was also the point where Ziggy saw me and cheered me. I tried to chase after them but I couldn't see the buoy on my left. For the rest of my swim, I tried a combination of freestyle and breaststroke. I was mentally exasperated with the difficulty of navigation but I was not physically tired. Worst, I have no clue of how fast or slow I was going for I had no more benchmarks. My exasperation showed in my poor swim split.

Eventually the swim episode ended and I began the second and last trail run.

I saw the creek again but stopped the nostalgic trip this time. Despite being behind, I did my best to greet or smile at every returning runner I met along the way.

As I head back toward the finish line, I saw Bong running towards me with a camera.
Hey buddy, thanks for pacing with me for a few meters and taking my action shots.

Coming out of the woods: the faster I ran, the quicker I could eat!
I was running hard this time for I was really hungry! Lunch beckoned strongly.
Lunch and merienda buffet were simple, but healthy and filling. I must have drunk at least a pitcher of fresh buko juice all day. Winner!

Finally a few meters from finish line. On the background was the transition area.
Strong finish pa rin! Official announced your name as you finished. Cool - another race done.
I could now chill again. Yehey!

Winners and their supporters: Ziggy topping the 30-39 aquathlon age group.
Jihan and Cathy winning 2nd and 3rd on the women's division of the trail run.
Bong and Ian finishing well too, just a few minutes away from Ziggy.
Ellen, winning the action photography award from appreciative us.
Myself, getting what I wanted - a beach outing, open water experience,
and chill run on the beach and trail.

Chillin' at the kayak post-race. Got to row again and even taught the girls how to steer the kayak. Was this taken before or after we were told by the lifeguards not to venture again beyond the poontoon and their line of sight? Sorry, we didn't know the rule and we got carried away by the sights. Awesome views!

Jump of joy before we depart

Guys and gals, we are doing this again, ok? I had a blast. Thank you my friends. Thank you too TRAP and Speedo. I love Camaya! See you all at next year's race - that includes all of you who missed this experience!


JavyO May 5, 2009 at 8:35 AM  

Nice one Rico. Congrats again!

Kakainggit, it looked like the best Aquathlon yet!

Next time follow the bubbles :) and pray to God he/she is going in the right direction :)

ian May 5, 2009 at 10:21 AM  

Hey Rico, While i was getting more anxious as the start gets nearer, you were so cool and composed... talaga atang from the start, yun na yung game plan mo eh... vacation mode and have fun.. i wish i could've switched to that mode right before the start.. that was really a blast.. thanks for the company bro! see you at Animo tri..

straightcurves May 5, 2009 at 1:46 PM  

Inggit ako sa chill running and swimming mo- almost fully documented! Haha! I should aim for one like that. But then again, will need to scout for a star photographer like Ellen :-)

Super thanks for the kayaking lessons. Cathy and I had a blast indeed!

Nora, the golden girl May 5, 2009 at 2:44 PM  

What an adventure Rico! I envy you guys... Looks like you lost 20 lbs after this awesome experience hah hah . . .

Anonymous May 5, 2009 at 4:33 PM  

Hi Rico,

Nice post and great experience. Next year I hope I could also try one.....


Bong May 5, 2009 at 9:05 PM  

Hey Rico, you look more like a tourist enjoying the sceneries of the resort,beach and trails rather than a participant of the race from the pictures. The important thing is not really the winning but having fun with friends, enjoying the experience of competing and just being healthy. The last picture says it all- a joyous day among friends.

Rico Villanueva May 6, 2009 at 2:33 AM  

Javy, best is relative, but this sure was the most fun aquathlon so far... Next time I will follow those bubbles and pray real hard. Actually I did follow another fellow, but he was veering away too. Kakainis. Haha :-)

Ian, akala ko nabanggit ko na ang agenda ko. Di ba obvious na chillax lang ako? But if I was racing like you guys, I sure would be anxious too. Hirap yata ng trails at swim. We'll have our revenge on the Animo Tri. Camaraderie was great, man. Thanks.

Jihan, pinagsama-sama ko lang ang mga pictures natin. Pero thankful rin ako for Ellen and Bong for the extensive photo documentation. From Ziggy, Ian and Cathy marami rin ako na-grab. Hehe.

Hi Nora. What an adventure indeed! I have been slowly losing more weight, but for this trip baka net the same lang ako. Nice to hear from you again :-)

Mhel, thanks. Sige sali ka aquathlon/triathlon para mas masaya. Gusto mo try Animo Tri?

Bong, you got term exactly. I was a tourist first, race participant second. It couldn't be any better for this time, place and circumstance.

Anonymous May 6, 2009 at 10:52 AM  

Rico, congratulations! Great photos! Take care.

jayps May 6, 2009 at 7:35 PM  

Hey.. just stumbled upon your blog.. it was my first marathon/duathlon/aquathlon actually. You guys where the one seated just in front of me on the bus (actually, you where on the left side, girls on the right side, and i was behind the girls (I overhead the name of one of the girls, kath? cath?)... wala lang.. share lang rin. :)

Looks like you guys really enjoyed it! me too! for a first timer.


Rico Villanueva May 6, 2009 at 11:05 PM  

Hi Wayne. Thanks for dropping by. I hope things are well with you.

Jayps, I hope you weren't disappointed with what you stumbled upon - haha. I hope we were not that noisy during the bus ride. Congratulations on your first aquathlon - Camaya was a fun way to start your foray into multi-sports.

Anonymous May 7, 2009 at 11:11 AM  


Swimming in open water is disorienting. Best thing to do is to pop your head out and sight every couple of strokes. Which reminds me, I need to jump into the ocean again!


Rico Villanueva May 7, 2009 at 3:27 PM  

Hi QS, yes, disorienting is the word. Popping the head is annoying but I guess I have to get used to it. Thanks for the tip. Been following your blog actually. I might not be commenting as much, but I do get something from them. The shark and survivor story is both scary and inspiring.

Anonymous May 8, 2009 at 12:00 AM  

This is a long overdue comment. Everytime I check on this post I get enchanted with the photo collection, making me forget I'm supposed to say something nga pala.

Thanks for being such a generous & cool company Enrico! Amazing, you always know how to enjoy yourself best in every race, and make it more fun for your friends as well.. So yes, ulitin natin to! ;)

Rico Villanueva May 8, 2009 at 12:18 AM  

Hey Cathy, thanks for the comment. I am really glad you, Jihan and Rod joined. The swim and the kayak ride, although short, were fun. May there be more opportunities like this. Thank you too for reminding me about the photos. I grabbed most of them from you, Jihan, Ian, Ziggy and Ellen/Bong. Too bad of me not to acknowledge sources; I just felt so at home with you guys and gals I lost my sense of propriety. Haha.

Bong_z May 19, 2009 at 1:14 AM  

Bro! finally found time to check out your blog :-) Reading your account makes me truly miss Camaya!

Here's to Anvaya in June!

Anonymous May 26, 2009 at 10:15 AM  

hi rico!

what a great escapade from the usual marathon that we normally join in manila. wish i could do the same. unfortunately, i don't know how to swim. hahaha

see you around


Rico Villanueva May 26, 2009 at 9:01 PM  

Hi Sheila, there was actually a 10K trail run for non-swimmers. I think they will do this again next year. :-)

ellen September 10, 2009 at 5:40 PM  

aptly described as CHILLIN'....heheheh..i so love the way you narrated this surreal experience..dahil dito, lalo ako naexcite..hmm, i think i should switch to breastroke pala?hmm..and btw, finishing slower than the rest of the pack has it perks..dami mo winning shots.. :)

Rico Villanueva September 10, 2009 at 5:59 PM  

Ellen, tumpak, tumpak, tumpak!
Ang saya di ba? I do like the perks - the winning shots! Haha!

See you at Corregidor!

Anonymous October 26, 2010 at 3:32 AM  

I would like to talk to you.

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