climb

the talipanan saga: cycling under the sun, bubbles in the belly, and waiting for rogue waves

i spent the better part of the last two weekends in talipanan in puerto galera where AMCI had its anniversary weekend. my first trip was a recon mission to lay down the plans for two days filled with all the things the members of the club might expect from a party: a lot of food, a lot of alcohol, a lot of singing, and a whole lot of things to do. we accomplished that in very little time and despite the limited budget we had. so the following weekend, as early as friday night, i was getting ready with two bags and a bike.


once again, i agreed to join a 62-kilometer ride from the port of calapan to talipanan beach. the trail is now around 90% road, but still 100% scenic. it cuts through rice paddies framed by a view of mount halcon and high cliffs that dip into the sea. the trail, which we covered in just over 7 hours (including an hour for lunch and a number of timed rest periods to gargle coke or sprite), has mild but long ascents where i struggled sometimes at 6kph, and long downhill drives where i exceeded 40kph. most of the time, i just averaged 22kph though, judging from my cyclocomputer's data.


there were 11 of us in the team, and there was never a time we could be considered a peloton: the fast ones were way ahead, and the new ones were behind. i was closer to the ones behind, to be honest, but this year, i had less difficulty -- that does not mean it was easy. i say that only because although we had fewer rest periods (not to mention shorter), i managed to complete the entire route. last year, i gave up when we reached sabang, and had no remorse in deciding to ride a tricycle for the rest of the way. besides, we reached the beach more than an hour earlier than the previous year. that's already a huge achievement for me.

we were already relaxing in talipanan beach before 2pm, and i was hydrating myself with a bottle of SML. i wanted to rest. in 2 hours, i would be joining a fun triathlon: the ironmanny race. it consists of a 300 meter swim (two loops around a buoyed dive boat), a 10km bike ride (two loops on the road behind mengie's resort), a 5km run, and a total of 3 cans of SML at the transition. i had earlier made pronouncements that i wanted to win, and was not below resorting to foul play in order to ensure my victory. in fact, i managed to prevail upon janice to exclude the pros. so i was up against only karl and glenn. but it turned out my closest competition was glenn's colleague, andrew, a british national who is a monster biker. although at the beginning, i was worried about the sharks and their speed on the sprint distance.


the race started shortly after 4 with a can of SML. we ran towards the water, which was choppy, swam towards a boat about 40 meters away, and swam back to shore diagonally, a distance of approximately 100 meters. we had to do this twice. i had a hard time swimming against the current. the waves were large and they engulfed me each time. although i've done the extri previously, i have not kept secret my fear of water and my only recent discovery of confidence whenever i am around it, so i knew this was a tall order for me. on my second round, i suddenly realized that howard was stationary about 25 meters away from the shore. he didn't appear to be in trouble: his head was steady above the water, and his hands were not above his head. but he was saying "help" at regular intervals. janice was already on her way to him, but i turned back to JC and said: "JC! howard needs help." and continued my swim. i must confess though that i nearly did a howard myself. seeing him there unable to move, and seeing genie holding on to the boat, i just wanted to gasp for help myself. but the rescuers were busy and i was determined not to become casualty.

when i arrived at the transition table, i wasn't aware that i was the first one there. apparently, everyone else went to howard's aid, who wasn't troubled by cramps, but merely overcome by fear. i didn't think i could contribute much to his rescue anyway and the swimmers (all underwater hockey players) may have had to save 2 sinkers. so i quickly glugged the can of SML and tied my shoes for the bike. i pushed my bike to the road only to find out once i was on it that my rear tire was completely flat! i had to run back to the transition area and look for a bike. i was about to give up because all the bikes already had riders. but i managed to snatch al's bike which was just there and chased andrew who overtook me while i was looking for a replacement.


i had already cycled 63 kilometers since 6 that morning so my quads weren't cooperating and i wasn't gaining speed. i had difficulty in the inclines, but found doc stationed more than a kilometer away from the bridge, which was supposed to be the turnaround point. he just effectively shaved our distance for the bike and the run by 4 and 2 kilometers respectively. he's an angel! i did the route twice but knew that andrew was already too far ahead. finally, at the transition for the run, i found that he was seated on a chair, contemplating the universe. that suddenly gave me renewed inspiration and i inverted the can over my mouth and finished it in record time and kicked the sand for the run. well, not really. it was a slow, painful run, which had me burping endlessly every 5 steps. i was really just waiting to vomit.


although i saw that my closest contender was at least 300 meters behind me, i didn't slow down. instead, i kept my pace, which was half a jog, really, and finished to the cheers and jeers of my friends. and later that evening, after the AMCI rites which i presided, i was awarded a big piece of glass: my first podium finish in a multi-sport race! i'm so going to put this on my resumé! at that point though, i was sure i didn't want to have another can of beer. i just felt bloated. and it was not a good feeling. beer is good, post-training, not between exertions. and beer is better nursed, certainly not rushed.


anyway, we finally turned on the videoke, opened the buffet, and had a great time on the beach. comparatively, this year's attendance was just over half of last year's turnout. but it was a lot more intimate since we were concentrated in one area, and were not distracted by our own little concerns. we had one videoke, a table filled with alcohol, and a few tanggeros going around coaxing people to drink. by 8pm, i was already a little tipsy after drinking most of my smirnoff vodka and lost to genie in an egg roll race. and then someone told me to entertain two austrian guests: a very nice-looking couple named stefan and anna. and so i did, in between drinking even more wine, beer (broke my promise), and stefan's rhum coke. every now and then i would join the singing and dance with whoever was there.


i have little recollection of what else happened. i got too busy entertaining the visitors until finally we were packing up and it was already a quarter to 4am and i could not remember where i was supposed to sleep for the night so i basically checked every room to find one that was unlocked. managed to open two: inside the first one i didn't recognize the people. finally i found my room and quickly fell asleep. i woke up the following morning after 8am with a headache, and i squinted my eyes at the world.

it was a slow-moving morning for me, and at lunch time we were told that the chile earthquake triggered a pacific-wide tsunami alert that prompted the coast guard to cancel all sea travel. i vainly tried to explain that the waters between batangas and mindoro were shielded from the pacific, but my knowledge of geography was of no use. it seemed we would be stranded in talipanan. the waves were in fact rather busy, and the wind was furious that morning. my companions began making plans for the day, and i wondered about my training. didn't really worry so much, unlike a pair of french nationals who stressed so much about being absent from work.


finally at 3pm, we received news that the alert had been downscaled and that ships were again allowed to sail. our boat arrived at 4pm and we loaded ourselves and our bikes and after getting a few more passengers from white beach, were already in batangas in about an hour and a half. after a brief stop at avile's in calamba for sinful bulalo, i got home at half past 9pm. these were two weekends well spent, and which i will cherish and remember.