El Nido, Palawan with the family

We just got back from 4 amazing days in El Nido. I wanted to treat the husband and the little one to a vacation that they won't forget and this trip definitely nailed it. I wanted to thank my husband for tolerating my cycling madness. It's not easy being married to someone like me who tells her husband after a stressful day at work, "honey, you better shape up as i have just signed us up for Race Across America." *wink*

beautiful El Nido!

On a more serious note, I have been wanting to show my husband how beautiful Palawan is ever since he decided to move to the Philippines from Singapore. It's been pretty hectic the past few months but I made it a point to schedule this vacation this month. I wanted to reward the husband for a job well done in delivering one of the biggest global projects of Deutsche Bank this year. He has been working very long hours and I've seen how dedicated he is to his work. On days when he's not working, he makes sure to spend it with me and Bella.

the little one and me in Funkita!

It was perfect timing when I received an email from Vany regarding a big promotion extended to the French Chamber of Commerce regarding packages and discounts for the El Nido Resorts in Palawan. Last time I was in Palawan was 10 years ago and I stayed at El Rio Y Mar in Busuanga for 4 amazing days. Anyway, I immediately booked a 4-day package at Pangulasian Island, the eco-luxury island resort in Bacuit Bay, El Nido.

melts my heart... daddy and bella bonding :)

Pangulasian Island didn't disappoint. We love all the activities, the service and the details in the resort. We were upgraded from the Canopy Villa to a Beach Villa (Thanks to the French Chamber!) with our very own beachfront. There were a lot of things we did... the Lagoon tours, the sunset hike, walking around El Nido Town, island hopping, feeding the Jack Fish in Miniloc Island, snorkelling and many more. The 4 days was just perfect as we got to do all these activities with so many time spent just bumming around, sleeping in, napping, lounging by the pool and just killing time by the beach. What's great about staying at Pangulasian is that the food is amazing and it felt so exclusive that we barely saw other guests during our stay there. Peace and Quiet.

family time!

We bonded a lot as a family which was the main objective of this trip. Bella was so excited to play on the beach and in the pool. The resort provided her with so many toys that kept her so busy. She enjoyed walking around and bumping into the big monitor lizards. I was quite impressed that she wasn't scared of them at all. She loved playing with the sand and chasing the small crabs running around. She had her fair share of "daddy time" and "mommy time". Colin had a ball snorkelling and was so impressed with the diversity and the abundance of sea creatures he saw. :)

family time take 2!

Now that we're back in Manila, I can't help but look forward to our next beach trip. It's been truly amazing just to be away from the chaos in the city and the daily grind. I am truly grateful for the gift of family and I am definitely looking forward to our next family adventure. :)

Audax 200km & 300km and the worst weather in Audax PH history

We have just concluded the last Audax ride for the 2016 season (October 31, 2015-November 1, 2016). We had a total number of 274 registered participants. 133 out of the 159 participants finished the 200km audax while 107 out of 115 finished the 300km audax well within the corresponding cut-off times.

scenes from the start of the ride

We had the worst weather from start to finish in the 6-year history of Audax Randonneurs Philippines. It was raining very hard at the start of the ride and we all had to endure the ankle-deep flooding at the start. It was pretty sketchy starting a bike ride in the dark, with flooding on the roads and not knowing where the potholes are. The rain was relentless as it practically rained all throughout the ride. I've never seen this happen before. I heard a lot of people who had mechanical issues during the ride (from being forced to use a single-speed, front derailleur problems, multiple tire punctures, and many more!). My husband had to abandon the ride as he was feeling sick when we arrived at the first checkpoint and I was forced to abandon my 300km audax buddies. (Sorry, guys! My mantra has always been, "Marriage over cycling!") We had a couple of accidents and even one of the biggest to date. Mr. Nelson Negrite was already in Castillejos as he was hit by a 6-wheeler truck from behind and was even dragged for a few meters. :( (Update: He has already undergone 2 surgeries for titanium implants and is now recovering. He said he can't wait to be biking again!)

happy people in the audax :)

But the spirit of audax riding was alive last weekend. At the beginning of the ride, I was already warning everyone that if they are not confident riding through the rain, they can back out and I would be happy to return their money. No one was budging. I was very impressed. In fact, I even heard shouts of glee as people cycled through the rain. The many photos and videos shared showed that a lot of randonneurs found joy in the challenges that came their way during the ride. The people I saw at the checkpoint in Cabangan were just full of positive energy ready to tackle the rest of the distance. I heard so many stories of people helping their fellow riders.

audax riders in action!

I saw a lot of old and new faces who are all inspiring in my book. Kenneth Romero rode with his 60-year old father, Gaspar Romero, and tackled their first 200km distance together on their Fat Bikes! Randonneurs are getting better and better as I saw the 300km Audax record broken by 17-year old Joshua Mari Bonifacio with a time of 9 hours and 34 minutes (inclusive of all 4 control point stops and with pedal problems!). We have some new additions in the Couples Who Audax section that are just truly inspiring for those who want to try the audax with their better halves. Everyone, and even those who didn't finish within cut-off, braved the elements last Saturday and showed a lot of mental and physical toughness. I couldn't be any prouder.

epic ride finishers!

As we close the 2016 Audax season, I would like to commend the 56 Super Randonneurs from the Philippines duly recognised by Audax Club Parisien. These men and women have officially completed the Audax series (200km, 300km, 400km and 600km rides) well-within the 2016 season. There are only a few Super Randonneurs in the country and I am very proud to have known each one of you. To date, we also have 506 Audax Addicts, individuals who have 2 or more official audax rides under their belt. Congratulations! :)

epic ride finishers!

Before I end this post, I would like to thank each and everyone who joined me on that fateful Saturday morning where we had the harshest weather conditions at the start of the ride. Thank you to the David's Salon crew who worked tirelessly and have been up for more than 24 hours to ensure everything is all ready and all control points are covered. Thank you to our very own Delfin Garciano who watched over Mr. Negrite in the hospital until his teammates arrived. Thank you to David Charlton for his unconditional support for Audax Philippines. Thank you to Ms. Jola Gonzales, who is enjoying her well-deserved vacation in Eruope, for helping in the preparation. We felt the love even if you are not with us physically. Last but not the least, thank you to my girls (Vany Bandoy Hans, Rachel van Klaveren, Annie Fallorin Abdon, Shai Dionela and Pebrero Dos) who helped in the registration and in welcoming all the finishers. :)

audax finishers!

Rest and recover well, randonneurs! And see you in December! :)

P.S. More photos can be found HERE.

P.P.S. Photos from the cameras of Alvin Quilingan, Clarisse Marte, Cyrk Ryan Lim, Don Fernando, Ed Ambida, Eleazar Samalca, Ferdinand Bautista, Hatta Dimaporo, Jason Delos Reyes, Jay-R Zapco, Jeremy Deanon, Jonas Bernales, Jonathan Miranda, Jonnel Cruz, Jose Trini Evangelista, Julius Buen, Jward Cruz, Kenneth Romero, Lito Anchores, Maynard Choi Degollacion, Carmela Pearson, Michael Lafuente, Onez Suena, Patrick Duruin, Patty Bellido, Rebecca Reyes, Rainier Paywan, Rey Baldwin Hernandez, Rick Tamayo, Russel Perez, Ryan Macalong, Sean Ilaguison and Shindee Franco

impromptu dinner at a new Italian find

Thanks to Vany, we discovered a new Italian restaurant today in the BGC area. After a longer-than-expected meeting in Makati and braving the 1-hour traffic from Makati to BGC, I was famished. I was just supposed to have a "light" dinner but when I saw the menu of Salvatore Cuomo, I started salivating and just went for a really big meal. :D

lovely dinner with the husband and athlete-friends :)

We managed to enjoy their house bread, the caprese salad, a pasta dish, a pizza to share, their big Bistecca Florentina and some dessert. It's been awhile since I had a nice Italian meal in the city and this definitely nailed it! What a nice ending to a busy hectic weekday! :)

Lombok: fun with the girls and the GFNY Indonesia Road Race

Back in April of this year, I signed up for the Gran Fondo New York (GFNY) Indonesia with my Team Cycledelic teammates. I've missed riding with my Singapore cycling team and saw this as a great excuse to have a nice race-cation with them. As far as I'm concerned, I wasn't race-fit (quite rusty actually!) but was pretty much excited to visit a new location and do what I love most... cycle! :)

180km route of the race

So why do the Gran Fondo New York (GFNY) Indonesia? I haven't done a proper cycling road race in 4 years and this seems like a nice comeback race. I've never been to Lombok, known as Bali's pristine sister island, but have heard of the amazing cycling culture in this part of the country. The governor of the island himself is an avid cyclist. Given that I'm into long-distance cycling, the 180km distance with some really hilly sections works in my favour! And last but not the least, I love Gran Fondos! I really enjoyed the Gran Fondo Marmotte in the French Alps last July that I got really excited to do another one that is internationally recognised. Good thing is that GFNY Indonesia is also a qualifying race for the Campagnolo Gran Fondo New York in 2017. If I qualify, this should be a good excuse to go to New York next year. *wink*

elevation of the race course

We wanted this to be a nice race-cation so we opted to stay away from the racing crowd and decided to stay somewhere nicer than the race hotel. Good thing Marlene, probably the OC-est and most organised in my team, booked us at Qunsi Villas. It was such a nice place as we felt so relaxed. It didn't feel like we were there to race at all. Morning views of the beautiful pools with the sea as a backdrop were spectacular. I enjoyed a lazy easy breakfast watching surfers in the lineup and some riding their waves. We managed to squeeze in a spa session as well!

my morning breakfast view :)

We had a nice villa for the 4 of us. The food was incredible. We practically ate all our meals there and skipped the meals provided by the organisers. Dinners were great with an Indonesian buffet spread on the first night and an Italian buffet spread on the 2nd night. The antipasti spread was to die for as they served fresh mozzarella, juicy tomatoes and fresh ricotta cheese! Oh! And the burgers were superb! I had 2 burgers during our stay at Qunsi!

beachfront of Qunsi Villas in Lombok

On our first morning in Lombok, we decided to do an easy spin of just 20km to check the bikes and ride a portion of the course. Our short recon gave us an idea of the climbs (with more than 15%) and the quality of the roads, that hopefully won't shock our system during the race itself. It was nice to know that the coastal roads were nicely paved and that the views were fantastic. We bumped into a lot of locals and a local lady cyclist who was so friendly and even requested to take a photo with us. So sweet! :)

cycling chicks building their own bikes :)

The girls and I woke up early on race day. It was still pitch dark as we cycled from our hotel to the start of the race. Being an inaugural race, the start of the race was a bit chaotic. We registered as VIPs to be put in the first coral as we wanted to be in the peloton in front. There wasn't any security and checks done whether one does really belong to the VIP coral or not. The start was also a bit late than promised which irked me a bit. Our flight back to Singapore was in the afternoon after the race so I am a bit sensitive with any delays.

the dinner buffet spread at Qunsi Villas: Indonesian for Day 1 and Italian for Day 2

When the race finally started, I got excited. It's been a long while since I've done a proper road race. I have forgotten how much exhilarating it is to attack, close the gaps, chase and just pushing oneself in a road race! We were initially thinking of finishing in 10 hours but boy did we race it! I managed to stay with the lead pack in the first 60km of the race. It was lung busting and legs were screaming. On the 60th kilometre, I realised that there are only 3 of us girls in the peloton and we have dropped the 30 or so women who have registered for the race. It was intense but was glad to hang on to the group until the climbs. By the time we hit the long climbs, my legs were spent and felt powerless. I must have pushed too hard trying to keep up and suffered the consequences. My roommate and friend, Colleen Ang, caught up with me and we managed to work together until we hit the steepest climbs of the race.

scenes before the gunstart

It was pretty humbling as I had to tell Colleen to go ahead and leave me behind as I had to walk these 33% sections. I've never walked and pushed my bike in the Gran Fondo Marmotte last July and that had 4 big mountains in the alps! Come to think of it, I've never really had to walk and push my bike in any of the road races I've done in the past. I thought I was screwed as some women started overtaking me on these sections (walking as well!). I thought I was done for. But I focused on recovery. There's still a long way ahead of us and I know I still have a shot if I can recover. I took it easy, started to be more aware of my nutrition and regulated my breathing. There was a 25km flat section where I managed to draft and recover well before we hit the final climbs. I started overtaking people in the climbs and started to feel good. I caught up with Colleen, who was running 4th female, and we worked together for awhile. By the time we hit the climbs, she let me go and I just went for it.

sweet victory!

The girls and I agree that GFNY Indonesia is one of our toughest road races to date with 180km of hilly and rolling terrain. My strava data only registered the first 142km of the ride before it ran out of battery. It would have been nice to analyse my data for the entire course. Anyway, the team did very well today with our Team Cycledelic Team Captain, Christina Liew, finishing 3rd fastest woman overall. Colleen Ang topped her age category. And I managed to top the 18-39 age category with a time of 6 hours and 45 minutes and be the 4th fastest woman in the field.

always a great time with my Team Cycledelic girls :)

It has been a crazy-amazing weekend. I had a great time with my teammates (Chris, Colleen and Marlene Chan). There were just so many laughter and stories shared. We had a great adventure even up to the last minute we left Lombok! Traffic was so bad and we arrived at the airport with just 25 minutes before our international flight back to Singapore! I still can't believe we were able to pull that off!

Anyway, I'm now back in Singapore and about to sleep. I can't wait to get back to my dear husband and my little one. Hopefully, I'll recover well enough for the 300km Audax next weekend! :)

off to my 1st road race in 4 years!

Off to Indonesia for the qualifying race of the Campagnolo Gran Fondo New York 2017. This is going to be a painful 180km of road racing on hilly terrain in the beautiful island of Lombok. Let's just hope the volcano behaves itself and lets us all have an epic ride. :) I can't wait to be racing with my Singapore cycling team mates again! It's been way too long! :)


loving funkita!

Loving this 2-piece ensemble by HERE! I may not be a swimmer by heart, but these suits make me excited to hit the pool on a rainy afternoon. They make me feel I belong to the water even if I'm considered a non-swimmer. :D Grab your own funkita swimsuit and order them through the Neptune Actives Facebook page. :)

really loving this 2-piece swim suit! :)

sunday cycling day... doing a big ride and geeking out :)

I used to ride in Sierra Madre almost every week. It's my favourite training ground as it is just near the house and riding here is always a quality training ride. It never gets easier no matter how many times I've done this in the past. I can't believe it's almost been 3 months since I rode here, which was even before I left for Europe in June.

happy to be riding in Sierra Madre again :)

Anyway, the husband is in London for a business trip but I wanted to make the most out of my weekends so I just had to ride. I sent out an email to the "usual suspects" and was glad to know that some were available to ride on a Sunday. I wasn't sure how my fitness level would be like. I have been training mostly indoors lately without any climbing because of Challenge Vietnam. I'm in cramming mode now as I have a long and hilly race coming up in just a few days in Indonesia.

always an informative session with Tritech Fitters! :)

Surprisingly, I felt good all throughout the ride and managed to keep up with the fast climbers in the group. I didn't feel powerful on the bike though but since I lost some weight from all the triathlon training the past few days, my power-to-weight ratio must have improved. Anyway, it was a great day to ride and we managed to finish before lunchtime. :)

Rudy and Timmy of Tritech Fitters... ang sweet!

After a quick lunch at home, I headed off to Tritech Fitters for my time trial bike adjustments. Saul was there and we got to discuss through the Performance Manager Chart with Chronic Intensity Load and the importance of tracking data to get the balance between fatigue, fitness and form/freshness to optimize performance on your target race or sportive. Honestly, I was never really into numbers when it comes to training. While I use a power meter for my indoor training, I opt not to have one when doing my long rides. I also rarely use my garmin and strava account as I rather focus on enjoying the ride rather than being consumed by the numbers. :)

Anyway, I feel that today was a great day... so productive and informative! Let's hope I survive my race next weekend!

Hansel and Gretel... bella's first musical :)

I used to follow the theatre scene in the country before. I've been very busy the past few years that I haven't really had time to check out what's showing in town. Fortunately, I had my dental appointment a few weeks ago and my dentist, who is a very hands-on mom, mentioned that Repertory Philippines is staging the musical "Hansel and Gretel" for toddlers in Greenbelt 1. She highly suggested that Bella watch it as it's only an hour long (inclusive of intermission) and is quite entertaining.

Bella with her Ninang Nina :)

Since Colin is on business trip in Europe for the week, I decided to call on one of my very good friends and Bella's godmother, Nina, to accompany me and Bella to watch the matinee showing of Hansel and Gretel. We saw the musical this afternoon and it was such an amazing experience for my little one. Without inhibitions at her age, it's quite fascinating to see her go through a range of emotions all throughout the show. She was really happy during the light moments of the show but got quite scared whenever the witch started to sing. It was comforting to know that a lot of toddlers were going through the same roller coaster of emotions and I'm not the only parent in the audience trying to pacify my baby.

It was indeed a great afternoon spent with Nina and Bella. It was like an extension of Bella's birthday celebration and it's nice for her to experience something new. Now that I can see she has basic appreciation of a musical, I can't wait to watch another one with her soon. :)

Audax 200km & 400km... the biggest audax ride in the country to date!

We had a record number of 390 registered participants. 332 out of 365 of the participants in the 200km ride finished while 22 out of 25 for the 400km ride. To date, we have 466 Audax Addicts (those who have done 2 or more official audax rides) and 16 Super Randonneurs (SR) in the country. There are still 41 folks who are vying for SR status and we might actually see another record number of SRs for the Philippines in 2016.

scenes before the 3am start

scenes before the 3am start

We saw the biggest gathering of randonneurs in the Philippines in last weekend's Audax. It has been a very eventful ride. The riding conditions were definitely not ideal. We all battled through the dark scary roads of Zambales at 3am. We all had to endure the heavy rain showers and the cold through most of the day. We had to be calculating in the descents and the slippery roads. We had so many accidents on the descents in Palauig and on the metal bridge before the town of Iba. Even my small band of Audax riders was not spared as we got into a multiple bike accident on a very slippery metal bridge in the dark. Yours truly had to abandon the ride as I suffered a mild neck whiplash, a bump in the head and some bruises up until now. I've heard of stories of first-time audax riders who were mentally and physically challenged and almost thought of quitting. The distance is challenging enough even for the seasoned cyclist and these conditions just made it tougher.

some riding photos

But despite all these challenges, the good still outweighs the bad. The previous record of ex-professional cyclist, Salvador S. Salvador (6 hours and 31 minutes) was broken by Jerry Guinsisana with a time of 6 hours and 15 minutes. I saw a lot of people finish well before lunchtime. I guess you can say that "these people ate a 200km bike ride for breakfast" last Saturday. A lot of Audax Addicts were beating their previous personal records. We saw the smallest wheel on a bicycle officially finish the 200km distance as Migs Mendoza, lead guitarist of the band Join The Club, finished using his girlfriend's foldie that has 14" wheels! We saw our resident Fatbike Super Randonneur, Ferdinand Estudillo Bautista, brave the 400km audax with his Fatbike as he prepares for an epic 1200km ride in Korea. I am still truly amazed by the tandem bike couple, Cyrk Ryan M. Lim and Natalie Grace Gestre, who finished the 400km distance well within the 27 hour cut-off. Last but not the least, I saw camaraderie among old and new friends flourish.

photos taken on my favourite bridge :)

photos taken on my favourite bridge :)

Friendships have been forged in last Saturday's ride and this is something that I myself truly value. I've always believed that one feels the most alive when one gets out of his/her comfort zone. It's a testament that we don't take our lives for granted. But to do such an activity with a friend makes it all the more memorable.

photos at the controls :)

photos at the controls :)

I would like to take this opportunity to thank David Charlton of David's Salon Inc. for his support ever since we started Audax riding in the country 6 years ago. Thank you to Ms. Jola Gonzales for her leadership over our dutiful marshals and staff. Thank you to the marshals who have been tirelessly working for more than 24 hours during the audax weekend. Lastly, thank you to my fellow Pinoy randonneurs who understands what these rides are about. Our growth in this sport is a testament of our deeper understanding on what long-distance cycling is all about and I am deeply honored to be riding with you all.

Until the next audax ride! :)

photos at the finish :)

photos at the finish :)

photos at the finish :)

P.S. Photos from the cameras of Alvin Bernales, Bowie Pascual, Carey Orbe, Dencio David, Emil Miranda, Erick Ureta, Ferdinand Bautista, Harry Penano, Javier Gonzalez, Jay Dy, Jema Ng, Jenny Guerrero, Jeonghun Lee, Joel Cortez, Julius Lopez, Kathy dela Masa, Kriska Sto. Domingo, Lilibeth Dy-Liacco, Longs Saldana, Mark Lucido, Maskedrider Kenneth, May Santos, Natalie Gestre, OJ Tiongson, Redg Plopinio, Reggie Reyes, Roger Sotto, Russel Perez, Sam Borromeo David, Wilfredo Martinez and Carmela Pearson.

P.P.S. More photos can be viewed HERE.

bella's mini birthday celebration in school :)

Leading up to this day, I have been both excited and nervous about Bella's birthday celebration in school. Most of the past birthday celebrations had packed fast-food meals from McDonalds or Jollibee and the corresponding themed loot bags. Themes have varied from Little Pony, Barbie, Finding Nemo, etc. It's my first time to host such a celebration in school and given the constraints (20 toddlers, 12 teachers and school staff and just 30 minutes of school time allotted to celebrate the birthday), I wanted to be different. I wanted to be unique. :)

Annie-themed sugar cookies, cupcakes, birthday cake and bento meals :)

I've been racking my brain for unique ideas and have finally come up with an Annie theme (from the famous 1980s musical). Annie was perfect as she is like Bella - cute, fun, loves music and with curly hair! I've been hunting for the perfect red dress for my little one and found one just 2 weeks before her birthday. As for meals and giveaways, I wanted to veer away from the usual fast-food meals, toys and candies.

one of the highlights of our morning :)

I've been researching for the past months and came across Bento Mommas. Everything fell into place as I later found out that their Quezon City kitchen is just 5 minutes away from my little one's school. This means, they can make the meals really fresh and I can just pick it up on my way to the school. True enough, the food was still warm by the time the kids sat down and ate their meals. I love what they have done with the bento meals with the Annie theme incorporated on the colour of the meal box used, the label sticker, the Annie face on top of the pasta and the Annie dress cookie. Aside from following the theme, the food was really good and was quite reasonably priced.

As for the loot bag, I put some little candies but added a customised red velvet cupcake, and a customised red dress sugar cookie. Thanks to Tintin's recommendation, I had everything made from Basti's Delicacies from Marikina and had them freshly delivered just an hour before I left for Bella's school. I also ordered a customised 6-inch cake for the candle blowing. Everything was "Just-In-Time" and was executed seamlessly. My husband was pretty impressed as he had no idea what I have been planning the past few days. We were equally impressed on how the school efficiently executed the gift-giving, the candle blowing, the meals itself and the distribution of loot bags all within 30 minutes! Needless to say, Bella felt extra special this morning and kept whispering to herself... "It's my birthday. And I have a lot of gifts!". :)