Justin Ghosh - 70.3 Phillipines

Justin Ghosh - 70.3 Phillipines  - 11 August 2019 

5 years ago, I ventured overseas traveling for the first time on my own to complete my first ever Ironman 70.3 Event in Cebu Philippines.  Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to return there to experience yet another first for myself; this time my debut professional start at an Ironman event.  I’ve put together this brief synopsis to recap some of the highlights from this event, as well as my journey to the start line.

It was a surreal experience to stand on the beach next to athletes like Terenzo Bozzone, Tim Reed, Luke McKenzie, & many other Ironman event winners, as well as join them for press conferences, welcome dinners, and assisting at the fun run and kids race in the days leading up to the event.  These were guys I remember reading about in triathlon magazines and watching on TV when I first started triathlon almost 10 years ago as a junior!  It was also a privilege to be looked after over the weekend by the Sunrise Events team, who do an awesome job at going above and beyond for not just the pro athletes, but every single person participating in the race.  

I came into this race somewhat underprepared given that I only returned to the sport earlier this year after several years of battling illness and injuries.  However, I really enjoy competing as often as I can, plus given my lack of experience this race presented a great opportunity to test out equipment, nutrition and tactics leading into bigger races later this year.  My swim especially has been a constant work in progress and given the quality of the field I exited the water second to last with a 3-minute deficit to the front pack of athletes.  

I rode majority of the bike leg by myself, managing to hold the gap steady for the first half on the course, until the heat and inadequate nutrition really got the better of me.  At the 75km mark I really started to suffer from cramps to the point of almost being unable to pedal but managed to survive back to T2 albeit it loosing a large chunk of time.  I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I wanted to pull out of the race, even during the swim, or question what I was doing or if I even belong at this level, however I felt obliged to the supports, the organizers, and myself to see it through to the end as I hobbled my way onto the run course.

As I passed through the first few kms of the run, I started to feel more comfortable and settled into a nice rhythm.  The heat and humidity made for some of the toughest conditions I’ve experienced in a race, and I walked through every aid station making a conscious effort to take on as much fluid, ice and sponges as I could.  Onto the second lap of the run course, I started to catch a few of the guys up ahead like Eric Watson, Luke McKenzie and others who where having a really tough day at the office.  Inside the last 2kms, I dug deep and put in a big surge to catch and pass Blake Kappler who I could just see up the road, and continued my way around the corner and into the finishing chute.

Through the mayhem of crossing the line and hoisting up the finishing banner, albeit while near collapsing in a state of exhaustion, I overheard the commentary team congratulating me on finishing 6th place on debut.  I couldn’t believe this as I had absolutely no idea what position I was in throughout the race, but a double check of the finishing times above the arch alleviated any doubts.  I did get extremely lucky with a lot of athletes struggling or pulling out of the race due to the conditions.  However, this was one of the great lessons I learnt over the weekend that it pays to keep pushing and never give up when racing at this level as you never know what is happening in front of you.  

For anyone considering this race or looking to add to their prospective events list, I cannot recommend coming over here enough.  I have never experienced any triathlon with this amount of crowd support, with locals lining almost the entire way of the run leg.  The course itself is memorable, starting with a picturesque swim over the reefs at the Shangri-La resort, followed by a brutally honest bike and run in tough but rewarding conditions.   

Getting to stand on the podium next to some of the best athletes on the planet and claim my oversize novelty cheque is a moment I’ll certainly cherish forever.  It was a humbling experience to make it here, as it wasn’t that long ago that I was just a beginner competing in my very first school triathlon, and since then experienced the sport through multiple facets as a junior, age group athlete, and now professional.  What hasn’t been lost through this time is my appreciation for the sacrifices all of us make to achieve our goals, whatever they may be.  I’ve also been very lucky to have some wonderful support that has really assisted me in recent times.  Firstly, Churchill Cycles who have not only provided me with flexible part-time employment while I train and study, but have helped me out a lot with my equipment.  Secondly, my coach Michelle Tickner for her coaching and advice in the lead up to this event, and I look forward to seeing what we can achieve with some consistent training in the lead up to Ironman WA.  I also owe a lot to my previous coaches Paul Mackay and Grant Landers, who taught me a lot through my early years of the sport.  Finally, I’ve been lucky to be a part of UWA Triathlon club for several years now.  Even though I’m no longer a ‘regular’ at training these days, the reason I got involved in the sport almost 10 years ago was thanks to the welcoming and friendly members, and the great training sessions the club puts on through the week. 

SWIM: 00:28:38
BIKE: 02:19:46
RUN: 01:22:22
FINISH: 04:15:38