Athletes prepare for strong sea current, jellyfish stings
Even with a forecast of cloudy skies on Sunday and the risk of rain, that’s not a problem for well-trained athletes competing in Sunday’s Cobra Ironman 70.3 Philippines.
“The harder it is, the better,” said Cebu’s Noy Jopson, the Philippine record holder for both the full and half Ironman, a test of endurance in three sports of swimming, cycling and running.
Yesterday he joined participants practice for the first time in a portion of the 1.9-kilometer swim race route fronting the Shangri-la’s Mactan Resort and Spa.
“It was a bit wavy but it calmed down toward late afternoon,” Jopson told Cebu Daily News.
Earlier at 3 p.m., the water was choppy and a strong wind gave swimmers a struggle.
From the shore, one could see fast-moving limbs of triathletes moving in the water but making slow progress in the waves.
The strong current of the Hilutungan Channel is one of the new challenges of the Ironman 70.3, which will expose athletes from different countries to the sea off Mactan island.
For the past three years, the international triathlon was hosted in a man-made water complex of Camarines Sur province.
On Sunday, the open water will be the first stage of the triathlon.
About 1,700 athletes in the Ironman 70.3 are sampling Cebu for the first time as a venue.
The race route covers one loop of 1.9 kilometers from the shore of Shangri-La Mactan resort to Movenpick Hotel then loops to Portofino beach resort and back to Shangri-La.
What some swimmers worry about is another local feature – jellyfish stings.
Small, inch-long Sea Thimble jellyfish locally called “bokya” abound in the channel.
Hours before the actual race, Olango island fishermen will use fine nets to remove the jellyfish as part of a contest of the Lapu-Lapu City government for the one who can gather the most number.
Fishermen will head out at 4 a.m. in their paddle boats for the task, said Andy Berame of Lapu-Lapu city’s Task Force Kalikasan, who will supervise the contest.
Fortunately, no deadly varieties of jellyfish are in the water, he said.
Swimmers have been advised to wear rash guards. However, under triathlon rules, swimsuits can’t have long sleeves or reach the ankles.
To ward off jellyfish stings on bare skin, Jopson, who has the local’s advantage of having swam many times before in the channel, said he’ll slather on sunblock lotion.
Team Cebu’s Rick Dizon said his protection will be a layer of petroleum jelly. He said it’s uncomfortable but better than being stuck by a jelly fish.
The swim will have a water start which means that participants have to wade 50 meters from the Shangri-La beach to the starting point.
Two waves of athletes will be sent out.
First to go will be the “Pros” or licensed triathletes who are all foreigners, the “Filipino Elite” category and males aged 30 to 49 at 6:15 a.m.
The second wave at 6:25 a.m. will be all female participants and the rest of the “age groupers”.
Participants are classified into ten age groups from 18 years old to 65 and above.
The swim cut off will be at 7:35 a.m. Anyone who’s still in the water after that will be declared DNF (did not finish).
Jopson said the jellyfish stings are annoying but “what’s important is that no one will be put at risk.”
He was referring to a sudden serious injury in the water that cant’ be noticed at once like cramps.
Spotters on six “sea ambulances” and two Coast guard boats with divers, will be stationed along the swim course ready to rescue anyone in trouble./correspondent NOrman Mendoza
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