The Subic-Masinloc-Subic audax, December 2022: A postmortem

Waiting seven years before my repeat of the Subic-Masinloc-Subic 200 km audax, one could say I spent a large amount of time and money preparing for it. Where my first attempt was frankly quite amazing in that no ride-ending occurrences happened despite myself, this second outing was much more deliberate and intentional. How so? One could just read all my posts in 2022.

So then, after doing all sorts of prep, what exactly worked on the day, and what didn’t?


The biggest issue I had during the audax, by far, was lower back pain.

This was not something I had to contend with in 2015. One could be lazy and simply chalk it up to “hey, you got older,” which is true, but bike fitters would most likely rule it out as the root cause.

Zambales province has your typical provincial highway surface of chip seal and concrete, but on some stretches you do get relief in the form of smooth asphalt. Those are more the exception rather than the norm, however, and most of the route will subject you to the kind of road vibration that will take its toll on you over time. My lower back was especially sensitive to it this year though. I found relief at the checkpoints, where I dismounted from the bike and tried to walk around. The motion generated by walking had helped quite a bit.

Video footage from Manny Illana and a few other friends yielded what the root cause was. They showed me rocking laterally on the saddle while pedaling, which was even worse whenever I rode in the drops. This is a dead giveaway that I had set my saddle height too high. I felt it the night prior, and also during my 100 km solo ride attempt, so I lowered the saddle by 3 mm. Turns out that wasn’t nearly enough.

Riding with the saddle set too high meant that I was introducing – even forcing – extra movement and instability out of my back just so I could push the pedals like I wanted. It’s unwanted play and slop, in engineer terms. Ideally, one’s waist and hips should be a solid platform from which to anchor all pedaling.

Yeah. Riding in the drops, that hip rocking is pretty bad. Right leg’s traveling at quite an angle, too

This fundamental mistake may have stemmed from riding indoors for much of the year. I had gotten used to climbing up to sit on my bike Hyro while he was clamped to the Wahoo KICKR SNAP by the rear dropouts. For some reason, I took this to mean that I should sit progressively higher, which was incorrect. On the contrary, I should really have been sitting at least 13 mm lower, and I didn’t ride outdoors frequently enough to check that my riding position still worked in “real” riding.

Three days and a deep tissue massage after the audax, my back was better, but still pretty sore. It went away after a week, and I’m back riding on the indoor trainer, now with the corrected saddle height, although I still need to verify my position in outdoor riding. Speaking of which…


As I am a recreational non-competitive rider with a day job and a family to go home to, I’ve had to change my riding and training regimen to fit how I live. Bad saddle height tendencies aside, the Wahoo KICKR SNAP has been indispensable in this regard, as I can train much more consistently and within limited time, less subject to externalities such as course features and other road users.

Having the hardware is well and good, but what makes it much more useful is in learning how to use it. Making sense of using power as a training tool can be daunting for newcomers, but once you get around to doing FTP tests every six weeks and setting power zones, you get a very good foundation to make real fitness gains from. Having raised my FTP to 217 W the weekend before the audax, it showed in how much faster I was at all-out climbing, despite having gained weight since 2015.

Software such as Elevate or Golden Cheetah can help you analyze your training over time. This shows the nine months leading up to the audax, showing a distinct lessening of training load from October to just before the ride.

What did my training look like? Believe it or not, I had only one 100 km ride in the months leading to the audax, which immediately got followed by my brush with COVID19. However, I kept riding at least a cumulative 100 km over three times a week for many months, where I concentrated on fitness gains until October. Following coach Dylan Johnson’s advice, I periodized my training so that I could spend the last four weeks mainly within Zone 2 power, as a sort of training “taper” so that I could ride the audax in a relatively rested state and not too fatigued.

All the folks who tell you to ride an audax to Zone 2 heart rate are correct, but in the real world, heart rate is subject to so many external factors that it just isn’t very reliable as a pacing tool and it’s easier said than done. Nothing wrong with not being able to afford a power meter, but once you get one and learn how to use it, heart rate is useful less as a pacing tool and more as a real-time indicator of your physical condition – subject to some delays and interference. Riding the audax to your Zone 2 power is much more useful, in my opinion.


For 2022, I continued with granola bars as my primary energy source, which rode within my Revelate Designs Mag-Tank top tube bag – perfect for quick access to my food. In addition to the old reliable Growers NutriBar, I had two other kinds of bars on board – Sante Crunchy and Carman’s, a fancy Australian brand. The latter…was not a good fit for me and the state I was in during the third leg of the audax. As good as Carman’s is, its fatal flaw as a mid-ride food is just how dry it feels to eat. Chowing it down pulled more water and saliva out of my mouth simply to chew on and swallow it. That extra water drain is not something you want when riding on a hot, humid day.

Any future attempts at an audax will be best served by granola bars that are much cheaper than Carman’s, but also moister. Carman’s is probably a good checkpoint or after-ride treat, but that’s it.

Next to the Bivo Trio, every other bidon is obsolete IMHO.

The other major change I did to my fueling was bringing a lot of Pocari Sweat. I’ve known for a long time that this mild-tasting Japanese “ion supply drink” has the peculiar effect of making me feel full when I guzzle it – something other sports drinks just don’t do. I had set regular 45-minute alerts on my ELEMNT BOLT for water and food, but I found Pocari Sweat could do the job of both for most of the ride. A side effect of this fueling strategy was that I never felt like I had to take a dump, since I think I may have eaten just four granola bars in total.

One notable downside to Pocari Sweat though is that if you’re already dehydrated, it doesn’t help much. If anything, the mild sweetness of the drink can make you feel even more dehydrated, as I felt when I rode to the third checkpoint in the punishing heat with one bottle half-filled with Pocari Sweat, and the other empty of its water.

Our SAG wagon was a Mercedes-Benz GLK.

The SAG (“supplies and gear”) wagon we had, courtesy of Manny and driven by our new friend Zaldy Ferrer, was a huge help. Essentially, this was the same minimalist amount of “assistance” the Audax Randonneurs Philippines vans provided back in 2015: in addition to the drinks and ice they carted around, you could give them a small bag of spares or extra food, which you could then only access at the checkpoints. With Zaldy driving the SAG wagon (and picking out very good spots to park within 500 m of the checkpoints), we effectively just increased the size of our bags. Manny dedicated one cooler for carrying ice alone, with nothing else inside – meaning it could hold more ice and keep it cooler at the same time, since nothing else drew out the cold. Each of us then brought our own drinks aboard the SAG wagon, in separate containers within, to refill our bidons with. Many of us also brought a change of kit, to account for the changing conditions as the day progressed. Manny also had a vacuum flask on board filled with very warm Campbell’s tomato soup, which was a welcome belly-filling treat at the Masinloc checkpoint.

Lastly, speaking of ice and bottles…the Bivo Trio insulated bidons were excellent at keeping their liquid contents cold for the entire ride, as long as you loaded them up about 1/3 full of ice. When I ran out of water, I misjudged the balance between ice and actual water (I didn’t have enough of the latter), and the black silicone coating had chipped off one bidon from sliding in and out of my bottle cages, but otherwise they were champs. Highly recommended, and well worth the expense.


Not too long ago I double-wrapped a portion of my handlebars with bar tape – this length being the curved shoulder from the center stem clamp section up to the hoods. I hoped the additional cushioning would help without being too bulky otherwise. It did, but not by much. Even when wearing my most comfortable pair of mitts, and softening the elastomer setup on my Redshift Sports ShockStop stem, there was just no way around hand numbness brought on by all the road vibration that had accumulated over 100 or more kilometers.

The Selle SMP Hell saddle refurbished by RGSkills was excellent, though. Somehow it had become even better suited for the task of a 210 km audax, despite foolish old me setting it too high. It worked especially well with the Pearl Izumi Expedition Pro cargo bib shorts, which were freakishly expensive, but well worth their cost in long-ride comfort and carrying capacity. I could feel the beginnings of a couple of saddle sores each time I remounted Hyro past Masinloc, but once pedaling, the bib shorts kept any chafing at bay and I finished the ride without being bothered by them. In hindsight, perhaps I should have taken the (risque?) opportunity to apply a fresh smear of Chamois Butt’r at the checkpoints, since our SAG wagon was carrying my tube of the stuff.

Expensive, but was it worth it!

Finally we come to my feet, which were shoehorned into my aging Specialized S-Works 6 XCs and further bolstered by Ergon x Solestar’s IP3 insoles. Considering I was sidelined by sesamoiditis of my left foot yet again in 2022, any pain on the balls of my feet was a definite non-issue during the nine hours of riding. The only issue I had was on the lateral forefoot, but it was more of a dull ache and nowhere near as painful as with my old Shimano XC5s, since the entire width of my feet was supported properly. There was none of the “foot contorting around cleat” feeling from seven years ago, either. My Look X-Track pedals were a little sticky to clip out from at times, but chugged along like champs.


The route loaded into my Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT as it synced with RideWithGPS. However, at some point along Govic Highway on the northbound jaunt, it just stopped giving turn-by-turn directions, which was strange. It seems like it was waiting for me to ride through a certain point that was stored in its route data, but no longer existed in real life. Given that my ELEMNT BOLT is of the first-generation variety, and doesn’t have onboard route recalculation like its successor does, I guess this is just one of its limitations.

While route navigation was a letdown, all the sensors the ELEMNT BOLT was connected to were firing on all cylinders. I had zero problems with the Magene heart rate monitor, the Wahoo wheel speed sensor, and the 4iiii Precision gen2 power meter, which meant I had zero problems being frustrated with the blustery headwinds as they dragged us backward and capped our speed to 18 km/h even when pedaling a sustained Zone 2 power of 135 W.

The Cygolite Hotrod 90 (R) next to Redshift Sports’ Arclight LED module

To cut through the night, my bike Hyro has a Cat Eye Volt 800 up front, mounted directly under the ELEMNT BOLT, and a Cygolite Hotrod 90 at the back. Given the number of other riders with their own LED lights, I didn’t need the Volt 800’s full power and ran it mainly at half its output, which was sufficient. The Hotrod 90 out back is quite bright, even when used in the daytime.

I wore the AfterShokz OpenMove bone-conduction headphones primarily as a hands-free headset for my phone in case someone called me mid-ride (either my wife, my riding buddies, or Zaldy in the SAG wagon). After the second checkpoint, though, I used it to play some choice high-BPM Super Eurobeat music on loop, which was a good way of keeping my spirits high in the grueling return to Cabangan. At the same time, these things allowed me to keep my all-important situational awareness, and they easily lasted the whole length of the ride. I was firmly in the “no music while riding” camp before, but things have progressed greatly since, and these are currently the best way of listening to music or spoken-word content while riding.

To date, this is the sternest test of the American Classic Timekeeper tubeless tires, and they held up very well to the demands of the day. I ran them at 60 psi rear and 55 psi front, about as low a pressure as I dared, and added 40 mL of fresh Orange Seal Endurance sealant. The tires kept good grip, even through the sandy, dusty areas of Zambales national highway, yet were still comfortable enough. While I fortunately never had to test the effectiveness of the sealant, the “endurance” moniker is pure truth in advertising – after breaking the bead on the front tire to reinstall it, there was still quite a bit of the old stuff sloshing about after at least four months of use.


Meeting the grupetto the day prior.
(L-R) Carlo Malantic, Manny Illana, yours truly, Zaldy Ferrer, Brendell Fortunato, Girard Banaga

I had met most of these guys the day prior or on the day of the audax, and I didn’t really have any expectations since they rode together on more occasions than I did. I was simply a straggler along for the ride. Even then, though, we worked pretty well. It was inevitable for our little group to fracture in places, given our differing abilities and specialties, especially on the return trip south where fatigue, heat, and blustery headwinds all conspired against our progress, but we ended up finishing within six minutes of each other.

Since I was the lone repeat randonneur, I mostly deferred to the group’s decisions about pacing and rest periods at the checkpoints. In hindsight, we perhaps took the first half a little conservatively, and we could have taken advantage of our freshness and the cool midnight temperatures to raise our pace. What’s important is that we finished as strongly as we could.


(L-R) DJ Cantor, Manny Illana, Brendell Fortunato, Girard Banaga, yours truly, Carlo Malantic, and Gio Aguila
  • Manny Illana, Carlo Malantic, Girard Banaga, Brendell Fortunato, Gio Aguila, and DJ Cantor for inviting me into the group.
  • Our SAG wagon driver, Zaldy Ferrer, for taking the opportunity at short notice, yet doing an excellent job.
  • The team behind Audax Randonneurs Philippines for hosting the event. Many areas for improvement still, but overall a great weekend.
  • The many friends who rode this event, even though we missed each other along the way: Chester Yap, KR Malonzo, John-John Torres, EJ Uyboco, my new acquaintance Chaz Garcia-Angan of Ciclo, and long-distance riding legend Julito “Popong” Anchores, who did the 300 km AND the 200 km the very next day. Congratulations to all of you!
  • Mango Valley Hotel 5 for the accommodations.
  • My wife Mav for the love and support.

The Subic-Masinloc-Subic audax, December 2022: All intent, no accident

The day of my second 200 km audax ride started at 2 am with a scalded right hand.

I had availed of the “audax participant special” early breakfast from our host hotel, Mango Valley 5, which consisted of a little sandwich and some instant coffee. Attempting to make it back to my room with breakfast and coffee in hand, two participants and their bikes exited from the elevator when its doors opened. With no one to hold the door open for me, I foolishly stuck my hand into the closing elevator doorway…which reopened the doors, but upset the coffee enough for it to spill onto my hand.

Well NOW I’m awake! I said.

Meeting up with my little group an hour later, though, I could consider myself a little lucky. At five hours, I arguably had the best night’s sleep of the bunch. Manny Illana, the longtime friend I had challenged to join the audax back in February, said he had three hours of shuteye. Carlo Malantic had had even less, at a particularly restless two hours. There we were, rounded out by Girard Banaga and Brendell Fortunato, astride our bikes, waiting on the side of Dewey Avenue while the 300 km audax peloton was getting prepared for release, so that we could take our turn after they did.

Carmela Pearson, the Audax Randonneurs Philippines matriarch, stood at the start gate, microphone in hand, barking some last-minute reminders. Among the general ones were a couple of warnings – first, about the infamous steel bridge at Kilometer 69 that was slippery in the rain and had claimed many a rider; and second, about the road construction work at the very end of Dewey Avenue near Subic Bay’s Kalaklan Gate. Both areas were causes for concern.


When 4 am came, we were released – the first wave of the 200 km audax peloton, which apparently was just a portion of the more than 1800 participants this time around, the most ever. I was basically a straggler in Manny’s group. They had many training rides in preparation for this event, ones I couldn’t join in due to scheduling conflicts, as they were all prospective first-time randonneurs. At the opening stages of the ride, I followed their lead aboard my bike Hyro, sticking to a comfortable 25-28 km/h pace.

Something was bothering me, though. Why was my Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT not flashing its LEDs against my power zones? And why wasn’t it tracking my heart rate as a percentage of my maximum (aka “HR%”)? Was something off with my linked sensors? I fretted about this while riding through the dark, the white glow from the peloton’s many LED front lights showing the way.

We passed through the towns of Subic and Castillejos without incident, and it was very smooth sailing because car traffic was a non-factor at this point. Unlike my previous outing, there was none of the last-minute nasty surprise road work that caught us out after a right turn within Castillejos. This time, much of the concrete roadway was serviceable enough, maybe even worthy of being called “smooth” to a casual observer. I was fiddling with the ELEMNT BOLT and confirmed my sensors were connected fine. Then I realized: I forgot to start the ride recording! We were already 19 kilometers and about 49 minutes into the ride when I finally pushed the button. Oops. At least now I could keep track of my HR% and power zones.

Riding through San Marcelino and San Narciso next, we were greeted by the winds. They were not a huge factor at this time, but they certainly brought some chuckles because they wafted the scent of choice cow and goat manure towards our noses. With the inclines largely gone and the elevation profile flattening out, we raised our pace to 28-30 km/h, letting the faster riders go past. It was at this point where cars, trucks, motorcycles, and tricycles started to make their presence felt, as they approached and passed us. We did our best to call them out to other riders and to ourselves, since we were still riding in fairly close proximity to each other and sunrise had yet to come.

The mighty sun finally greeted us at San Felipe, bathing the Zambales countryside in a welcoming glow. We kept at it until we got to the first checkpoint at Cabangan. What was once an abandoned Shell gasoline station with faded yellow signage was now operated by another, smaller brand with a light green logo.

This was the first time I had experienced the new QR code-based system that Audax Randonneurs Philippines had adopted in place of the classic brevet card stamping at each checkpoint. We all had our individually issued QR codes tested during the pre-ride check-in the day prior, and they worked just as well in the field, with the checkpoint marshals scanning our codes one by one.

After we were done with the checkpoint, Manny’s Mercedes-Benz GLK was a short distance off by the side of the road, with driver Zaldy Ferrer waiting for us. The silver GLK was our SAG (“supplies and gear”) wagon, carrying a chest cooler full of ice, and the personal effects and drinks each of us four had loaded the night before. Manny had also provided some pandesal stuffed with Spam. After we had had our quick bites and refilled our bottles, off again we went.


Photo credit: Five-Eight Photography

With the sun up and the group barely 500 meters away from the Cabangan checkpoint, I reached into my jersey pocket to get my sunglasses, which were badly misted over. While trying to wipe them clean with their pouch, I had snagged my finger on the nose bridge piece, which fell off to parts unknown and rendered my sunglasses completely useless. Drat. I would have to continue riding without eye protection.

Manny Illana and his bike at the Bucao River bridge.

Continuing along the road, we passed through Porac, which then eased us into the famously picturesque Bucao River bridge, where many a randonneur has stopped to take photos. It was a gorgeous sight in the early morning light, the rays glinting off the riverbanks and the hills. The bridge is often mistakenly named for the next town we passed through, which is Botolan. We crossed the infamous steel bridge here, the one which Carmela warned all of us about. The steel panels themselves had a coating of asphalt for grip, but they also had gaps between them which could catch the tires of a road bike if you rode through it in the dark.

The large municipality of Iba, serving as provincial capital of Zambales, lay next. At this point, participants could either ride straight on through Iba town proper, or take a right into the quieter Govic Highway, which was a diversion road for trucks. Our group had gotten splintered as more vehicular traffic made its presence felt, and I thought I was ahead of the pack. When I happened upon the Petron gasoline station that marked the fork to Govic Highway, I pulled over and waited for the group to catch up.

Five minutes had passed. DJ Cantor, a friend of Manny’s who was also riding the audax, met up with me and asked if I had seen them. He said they may have already passed through without my knowing and gone straight into Iba town proper. I thanked him as he went on. I decided to turn into Govic Highway, as my Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT had instructed.

There were far fewer riders on the road I chose, which made for a mental respite from the buzz of the audax and the increasingly busy surroundings. Eventually I saw a few kindred souls who had turned right into Govic Highway too. Given our numbers, I decided to ride a little more conservatively in support of my fellow “breakaway artists,” and offered to take a pull at the front.

Video clip credit: Manny Illana

I was a little concerned that my ELEMNT BOLT had stopped giving turn-by-turn cues somewhere along Govic Highway, as if there was a reference point in its data that I should have ridden through, but didn’t in real life. Mine was the first-generation model which didn’t have real-time route calculation, so that’s that. It didn’t help that the diversion road also had a little climb at the end, and it just so happened to pass through consecutive piles of smoky burning leaves – technically banned these days but still frequent in Philippine provinces. After a quick descent, Govic Highway eventually merged with the main road, where I saw more of the riders who had gone through town previously.

Spirits still high, I left Iba and rode into the empty expanse of Palauig – the last town before the hills leading into Masinloc. Over on the right was a pretty neat solar farm, its photovoltaic panels stretching across the rolling terrain. Right after the solar farm was when the climbing started, in the town of Pangolingan.

Video clip credit: Chaz Garcia-Angan

The first two rolling hills weren’t too bad, but they set us up for what is perhaps the steepest climb of the entire course, the San Lorenzo Bridge segment, which averaged 6%. Clicking into lower and lower gears, I did my best to spin straight up the slope, lungs burning, cranking away at a sustained 220-250 W as I overtook slower riders. Even while fighting gravity, I could still click into a harder gear and deliver an overtaking burst before backing off twenty seconds later.

Winching my way up the road, I crested it after just under ten minutes…which led to a beautiful series of downhill flik-flaks with such nice asphalt. The rises that followed still gave a challenge, but nowhere near the level of the San Lorenzo Bridge climb, and this was where I was reunited with Manny and Carlo. A few flat stretches later, we made it to the second checkpoint at Masinloc.

Boss man Zaldy lending DJ a hand.

Zaldy had done his magic again and parked the GLK in a very fortuitous spot, far enough away from the bustle of the checkpoint, but still within easy reach. As before, I restocked my top tube bag with granola bars and refilled my bottles with water, ice, and Pocari Sweat, but this time I decided changing out of my sweaty base layer and jersey was in order. Manny pulled out a vacuum flask full of very warm Campbell’s tomato soup, which made for a surprisingly effective recovery drink. Between this and all the Pocari Sweat I had along the way, I didn’t feel very hungry and felt like I could continue on. After a few group photos, we turned around and made our way back.


Girard and I took point for the group as we rode the flat roads out of Masinloc toward the same rolling hills we had careened downhill at 45 km/h earlier. This time, I decided to take it a little easier and pace myself. The infamous Zambales heat was beginning to pick up; by the time we left, it had climbed from 28 degrees Celsius to 38. Girard and I had slowly pulled away from the others as the asphalt started going vertical. I was watching the 3-second average power on my ELEMNT BOLT and using it as a pacing tool, backing off whenever I hit 210 W. I had told the others beforehand that maintaining 9 km/h along these winding, curving climbs was a good pace to follow in the absence of a power meter; Girard and I were doing roughly that same speed. A long string of riders spinning their pedals up the Bamban twisties formed.

It was really starting to get hot at this point

Completing the rolling hills in reverse treated us to the descent of the San Lorenzo Bridge segment, where I had hit a gravity-assisted top whack of 57 km/h. Eventually the road flattened out as we got back to Palauig. Girard had put some distance on me; even though we seemed evenly matched for power output, he was a much lighter rider. There was nothing to do but hunker down and keep cranking away, which was just as well, as the 40-degree heat was starting to really beat down on me and the concrete roads were doing a very good job of reflecting that heat right back in case I wasn’t cooking already.

I managed to catch sight of Girard as he pulled into the gasoline station that marked the merge point between Govic Highway and the main provincial highway. I decided to stop in as well to take a quick pee break and rehydrate. Girard’s friend and fellow audax participant Gio Aguila pulled up alongside us, and we all wondered about where the others had gone. After eight minutes, the three of us clipped into our pedals and rode away. It was in this group of three that I would find myself most often a part of as we made our way back to Subic.

Tailing Girard as we cross the steel bridge for the second time.

Having started my ELEMNT BOLT’s ride recording late, I put myself at a disadvantage as I didn’t have a good idea of where the checkpoints were in relation to the distance I’d already ridden. All I knew was that I was around 19 kilometers off, which made for a crappy indicator of progress. With the infamous Zambales headwinds starting to pick up and gather strength, and my water bottle going dry earlier than expected, my mental toughness was slowly beginning to wane as I rode in front of Gio. By the time we crossed the Bucao River bridge again and gotten into a slightly woodier area of the road, I was getting pretty beat up from the heat and wind, complicated by my lower back aching from the 13-mm-too-high saddle height and road vibration. I could continue drinking Pocari Sweat, but with no water left onboard, its mild sweetness on my lips was further exacerbating my thirst. My eyes scanned the roadside for a sari-sari store I could buy water from. I badly needed a break. I told Gio to carry on.

Yours truly at Botolan approaching the Bucao River bridge.
Photo credit: Gio Aguila

The store I stopped at unfortunately didn’t have any water. Instead, it sold ice-cold Coke in these tiny plastic bottles. I bought one, chugged it down, and bought two more to transfer into one of my bidons. Didn’t make sense to me to waste the cold of the slushy Coke to the heat, so I figured the Bivo Trio bidon could make its cold last longer. While Coke isn’t quite the same as water for hydration, it was what I had to work with.

With slightly less demoralization, I swung my leg over Hyro and continued on my way. I distinctly remember wondering how far I had left to go before I could see the light green of the Cabangan checkpoint gas station again. Would my ELEMNT BOLT read 135 km when it showed up? It’s already at 135, why wasn’t it there yet?

Brendell standing beside the SAG wagon.

Mercifully, almost anticlimactically, I made it to the third checkpoint at Cabangan. After having my QR code scanned, I hobbled over to the waiting SAG wagon on the other side of the road, where Girard, Gio, and Zaldy sat waiting. The rest of the guys rolled in soon after. My lower back was really starting to get to me, and I had a little difficulty moving my limbs from holding my riding position through the built-up fatigue.

As we were freshening up and relaxing, we decided to take it easy on the final leg. Collectively, we had made good time, well within the 13.5-hour cutoff for the distance, so we could afford to rest as long as we needed. We spent 35 minutes on the roadside before setting off on the final stretch.


The ride from Cabangan, San Felipe, San Narciso, and Castillejos was pretty much a slow slog. I had told them about a ten-o’clock headwind from my previous attempt; now it was even stronger and kept punching us right in the face, dead-on. Girard, Gio and I had a bit of respite whenever we chanced upon built-up areas and townships, but whenever we found ourselves in the open, we were at the mercy of these blustery, invisible walls. Seven years ago, I was doing 22 km/h in a paceline. This time around, I was targeting just 20.

Gio: “Are we there yet?”

It got to the point where Girard and I bogged down at 18-19 km/h and could go no faster, even when I was pushing a steady 135 W. Mercifully, the heat had let up somewhat. The two of us decided to take a short break at a roadside eatery and wait the winds out a little, which worked in our favor.

Upon arriving at Castillejos, Girard asked if we wanted to take a final break before we tackled the last few climbs back to Subic. We ended up waiting for the guys for twenty minutes at a 7-Eleven a short distance from the edge of town, where he munched on a pork dumpling as a pre-climb meal. Shortly after they arrived, we went on our way, but not without drama. Manny had run over one of those large brass staples, puncturing his rear wheel and clacking against his bike’s seat stay junction in the process. He quickly yanked the staple off and gave the rear wheel a spin for its sealant to do its job. Sure enough, the white foam oozed out of the tire and seemed to plug up the hole the staple left in the tire tread. Off we went.

Again, I found myself behind Gio and Girard as we bombed down the road from the Subic public cemetery. The road flattened out again and this time we were in Subic town proper, battling the early afternoon traffic congestion. With the goal so tantalizingly close, we carefully picked our way lane-splitting through the stopped cars and trucks. The final approach to Subic Bay’s Kalaklan Gate had these little hills that we had to climb up at 13 km/h…only to be greeted by even more traffic congestion as the road wound its way into Kalaklan Gate. With some patience and a firm hand on the brakes, we eventually squeezed our way through the right turn into Dewey Avenue through Kalaklan Gate…and finished the audax!

I sure regret that missing 19 km and 49 minutes

While Gio, Girard, and I finished at roughly the same time, the others rolled into Mango Valley Hotel 1 within six minutes of us. Carlo, who had humorously complained earlier about his butt not being friendly with him any more, now said he could finally give it some rest. Apparently, Manny’s puncture from the staple wire was still ominously leaking air slowly, so he had to sprint to the finish to make sure his rear tire didn’t run out of air. We claimed our medals, posed for photos, and took up Manny on his invite to dinner at Anvaya Cove half an hour’s drive away.

Except for me, at least. I was simply in no shape to drive. My lower back needed its rest after all the road vibration and riding at improper saddle height, and my wife Mav swore she saw me shaking from fatigue. If I had gone with the guys for dinner, I might have spoiled the evening for them.


Things have definitely changed within the seven years of my last 200-kilometer audax. Not to belabor the point, but the blustery headwinds and high temperatures of the return leg were definitely the talk of the ride, even among many other participants. While the riding was still generally safe, and most motorists were willing to share the road with us crazy folks on bikes, there were a few hairy situations and close calls.

Maybe it’s my previous experience riding here, but it’s amazing how straightforward the route is and how much less daunting the distance is between towns and landmarks, compared to my first time. Then again, the heat and headwinds did a real number on my mental toughness on the way back, so maybe this is me talking out my ass.

My former colleague KR Malonzo riding point for his gang, the MKBD.Crew.
Photo credit: Five-Eight Photography

A former colleague of mine, KR Malonzo, finished the same distance shortly after we did. I had invited him over Facebook Messenger, but wasn’t sure if he committed. Turns out he did, with style!

Our little group finished pretty strongly too. Some of us may have been stronger riders than others, but to finish within six minutes of each other shows just how dedicated these guys were to finishing their first proper audax. None of us succumbed to the kind of cramps that debilitated enough to be ride-ending, although we certainly felt their onset! I could tell they trained for the event, all those Saturday mornings I couldn’t join them in their rides, and it definitely paid off.

I am glad I could help introduce a handful of people to the magic that is the Philippine audax ride, and it was an honor to have ridden with these gentlemen.

(L-R) Manny Illana, Carlo Malantic, Brendell Fortunato, Gio Aguila, Girard Banaga, DJ Cantor, yours truly

Emerging from a pandemic snafu, part 3

So I finally paid a visit to a cardiologist.

Upon sitting down, I explained to him that I was a cyclist, regularly riding about 100 kilometers a week, with varying levels of training load. I had signed up for the December 2022 Subic-Masinloc-Subic audax, but I contracted COVID19 a month and a half prior to the event, and I wanted to know how fit I still was to participate.

His advice was pretty encouraging. At my age, there shouldn’t be any problems emerging out of COVID19 and resuming my usual level of activity. The cycling friends I had asked were considerably older than me, most of them in their fifties, and so were at the age where getting tests like a 2D echocardiogram and blood work was standard operating procedure, even without COVID19. Still, he recommended that I get the aforementioned tests so that I could have a better idea of what my condition was.

The blood work came first. No surprise there, as it’s routine and very quickly done, without any need for scheduling in advance, unlike the 2D echocardiogram and treadmill stress test I was supposed to do. It had returned fine, although I had just breached high cholesterol territory and my liver enzymes were about as high. While these need some attention, they’re not urgent concerns and are ultimately secondary findings to what I was really after. Everything else seemed good though.

More relevant for my purposes was getting a 2D echocardiogram and treadmill stress test. This required booking, but I was able to have both done on the same day. Release of the results kept me in suspense for a couple more days. I was pretty sure of the treadmill stress test, as it required walking/jogging intervals of three minutes each as it gradually ramped up to my theoretical maximum heart rate of 181 bpm. I was jogging at 184 bpm and completing the final interval before the attending doctor stopped the test.

Ultimately, both tests yielded good results. The doctor told me he couldn’t guarantee COVID19 didn’t have a negative impact, but whatever it may have been had already up and left. As of right now at least, I am in possession of a healthy, normally functioning heart.

With these findings, and my recovery from COVID19, I have a medical go-ahead to ride the audax. If you’re reading this and plan to join the ride, and I’ve heard there are quite a few people who plan to do so, I hope to see you there.