My Audax Experience

On December 7th, 2019, I finished my first ever Audax and the longest ride I have ever been in since I started getting on the saddle.

I can clearly remember pumping my fist like I won the Tour de France when I saw the finish line in the distance. With a tear in my eye, I hugged my wife who was waiting for me there…with beer.

What is Audax?

Audax is a cycling sport where participants attempt to ride long distances within a pre-determined time frame. It is non-competitive and you only race against time.

In the Philippines, Audax rides are organized by the Audax Randonneurs Philippines. They are the approved brevet-coordinating body by the Audax Club Parisien. In other words, the Audax rides by this organization are internationally recognized. Once you enter, your name is on there forever.

The group started organizing Audax rides in 2010 with seasons lasting from December of the previous year to November of the current year. So the December 7th ride I was in is part of the 2020 season.

Audax Rides 2020

There are several rides slated for the 2020 season ranging from 200KM to 600KM. The events are held in different places such as Palawan, Baler, and Davao.

The most popular/frequent venue however is Subic. They’ve held an event here every year since they started. In 2020, there are 200KM, 300KM, 400KM, and 600KM slated rides.

I rode on the 200KM ride in Subic.

Preparing for Audax

I have never entered anything like this before. I have never competed (except for a couple of very local races when I was in Grade School and High School). And to my knowledge, the longest ride I’ve ever been on before this was about 130KM. I knew I had to prepare for this like never before.

Start of 2019, I already had this goal in mind to join and finish my first Audax ride in December. I started planning then. Of course, since I got married in March, I reserved all activities until after the wedding.

I started by conditioning my mind. I did 50-60KM rides at least once a week to start off. But with my current bike at the time, which was an MTB designed mostly for climbing, I knew I’ll need a different bike.

New Bike: Meet Merry

My dad has two road bikes I can borrow. However, I thought that this was my opportunity to get my own. I started researching and checking online.

All in all, I decided to get a cyclocross bike. This gives me the added speed and performance of a road bike with the flexibility of an MTB. My main reasoning was that I hated the road conditions of Metro Manila and having the extra width in tyres can help me deal with it. At the same time, it still allows me to go on gravel and light trails which I frequent in Timberland.

Checking all my options, I ended up getting a Merida Cyclocross 300. With its specs and price (it was on sale) at that time, I feel like this offered the best value for money bike. It featured mostly Tiagra parts and also sports Tektro brakes. So far the only things I changed from the bike were the exterior tyres and handlebar tape. For more info on the specs, here is the link to the Merida website.

Also noteworthy is that my main bike, my MTB, is also a Merida. It has been with me since 2007 so I had confidence in the durability and reliability of the brand.

Buying the actual bike was also a journey in itself. I had to contact multiple shops since the bike was almost out of stock everywhere, especially for my size. One shop had one in my size but only does delivery and COD so I agreed. He never showed up or returned my messages and calls.

In the end, I was able to purchase one in my size from RyanBikes Kamuning. The bike didn’t come with pedals but fortunately, the shop gave me a few hundred pesos worth of extras so I got a pair of cheap pedals just so I can ride the bike home and two bottle cages. Knowing I’d be riding for 200KM I knew I needed two bottles. I went to the shop on the agreed time and date it would be delivered and viola, meet Merry:

Training for Audax

I stopped riding from January 2019 to March 2019. After that, I got a new bike and it is time to get on some real training!

2 months before Audax, I continued with 2 times on the bike for 50KM to 60KM per ride. And since I started running with my wife, we also did run training and a few fun runs during this time.

6 weeks before the Audax ride, I really got into it. Per week, this was my training regiment:

  • Monday: Gym – 60min on stationary bike at 200 Watts.
  • Tuesday: Ride 20KM on my bike for 300 meter elevation.
  • Wednesday: Ride 30KM on my bike
  • Thursday: Gym – 60min on stationary bike at 200 Watts.
  • Friday: Gym – 60min on stationary bike at 200 Watts.
  • Saturday: Century Ride
  • Sunday: Rest

I changed up my diet as well. I ate more proteins and fewer carbs. I also significantly increased by vegetables.

For the final 6 weeks before the ride, I stopped drinking as well. No beer, scotch, brandy, or any alcoholic beverage. The only time a slipped up during this time was a Christmas Party where the host opened a specific bottle of wine for me not knowing my diet plans. So I had a glass or two. Realized I really missed it.

One concern I had was that on my 4th century ride, I felt like I peaked already. I had my best times and did really well. On my 5th I felt sluggish and weird. So on my last week of training, instead of turning my effort to low, I maintained it at medium. It helped and my legs got back into shape.

Right Before the Audax

My wife is so incredible with her support from start to finish. It just made sense that she came along. We rode the bus from Victory Liner in Cubao all the way to Subic. There were 5 other cyclists in the bus so we took over 2 of the 4 compartments in the bus with our bikes. Front-wheel off, the frame standing side by side, then we used a rope to tie them together to ensure they don’t fall over.

We arrived at Victory Liner Station in Subic after about 3hrs travel time.

Apparently, for anyone else planning to do this in the future, you can get off at Harbor Point Mall if your hotel is within Subic premises which is much closer. We took a cab going to Subic International Hotel Complex where I booked a room via AirBnB for a very reasonable price. The owner is Korean and he was very accommodating, friendly, and went the extra mile to ensure me, my wife, and my bike were all safe and happy with our stay.

The room is great as well with a big TV and fast internet. It was a short walk to the mall which was great as well since my wife would have nothing else to do while I was riding the Audax.

You can view his property here if you need a place in Subic.

The starting point of Audax Subic Dec 2019 was changed due to the ongoing SEA games event. Instead of the usual Mango Valley Hotel, we started at Olongapo CIty Hall.

The night before, me and my wife ate at Cabalen in Harbor Point Mall. I carbo loaded but took care not to overeat.

Once back in the hotel, I prepared everything I needed.

  • Marikina Cyclista Jersey from my dad
  • Brevet Card which would be signed at every checkpoint
  • Sleeves
  • Gloves
  • Shoes
  • Helmet
  • Arm bag for my phone
  • Vest for additional and easy access pockets
  • Bottles
  • Also had power gels and a couple of cloud 9s just in case
  • Also not in the picture were leggings which were very helpful

 

Not in the picture are also my bike lights which are very important since the ride starts very early in the morning.

Cost of Audax

One of the main questions I got asked about this event is the cost. So here is the breakdown:

  • Registration: 800 (or a bit above, not sure but it’s between 800 to 900)
  • Medal: 850 (or a bit above. Again it doesn’t reach 900). Yes, the medal is a separate payment. This is because the medals are ordered in France and the organizers did not want to burden a huge registration fee to everyone who wants to join. This gives some flexibility.
  • Hotel: 3,200PHP. I decided to stay for two nights, Friday to Sunday since I want to rest before and after the ride. I was able to book an AirBnB room inside Subic Bay Freeport Zone for 1,600PHP per night. There are also hotels that are just 1,000PHP a night right outside Subic Bay which is just a kilometer or two to Mango Valley Hotel. Of course, this is optional. I talked with some riders who traveled to and from Subic on the day of the Audax itself.
  • Transportation: Less than 600PHP. I took the Victory Liner Bus in Cubao to Subic. The same way going back. I think it was 285PHP one way.
  • Food and others: I bought a couple of power gels, cloud 9s, and of course ate the day before the race and after. All in all, I spent about 2,000PHP on food and drinks.

All of that for a total cost of 7,450PHP. I believe this can be further cut down to 5,000PHP or less by skimping a bit more on the hotel and food and drinks. You can also opt-out of the medal.

Riding the Audax

I barely slept the night before the ride. I was excited, nervous, and every other emotion you can feel, all right there. I was in bed at 7 pm2 and had my alarm at 2 am to give me time to relax and get to relieve my bowels (anyone who’s gone on an early morning ride knows how important this is).

I kissed my wife see you later at 3 am and off I went from our AirBnB to Olongapo City Hall which was about 3KM away with my Audax Brevet Card on hand.

My first impression was that my leggings and sleeves were a great idea. Early morning in December, it was COLD especially once the wind started kicking in. While there wasn’t an afternoon sun since the entire day was mostly cloudy, the sleeves and leggings might help with that as well.

I got to the starting line at 3:20 am. There were already a lot of cyclists getting ready. I stayed hydrated and checked the other participants. One group that stood out was riding their folding bikes which were awesome.

Exactly at 4 am, the ride started. I was probably in the middle of the pack at the start and those in front of me just zoomed off. The adrenaline and excitement kicked in I guess. In the first few turns, there was already some traffic within Olongapo so I just stayed within 20KPH and used my bike to work experience to ride out the first part.

We hit the first climb at about 12KM into the ride. It was still very dark and it was good that everyone had lights, which helped. This was where my legs started to warm up and I was getting into my groove. Normally, I heat up or get my groove at around 20KM into a long ride. My training helped with that I guess.

My plan was to go as fast as I can going to Masinloc then take it easy going back. This way I don’t have to hurry going back and I can do my photo ops during that time.

First 50KM

For the first 50KM, we were headed to Yellow Gas Station in Cabangan where the first checkpoint was and where you need to get the Brevet card signed. Almost the entire way there was still dark. There were also sections that there was still morning dew which made it extra cold.

This was also the time where you get to see who you will be with almost throughout the entire ride. The stronger riders started getting ahead and you find your place within the entire group. I specifically remember the group of folding bike riders zoomed past by me and I never saw them again until after the event.

Running at about 24-27KPH, I reached the first checkpoint a little after 2 hours. I got my card signed, ate an energy gel, waved hello to the group of cyclists I met on the bus, then started on my way. I did not want my legs to cool down.

Second 50KM

For the second 50KM headed to Masinloc, I was in the zone and doing 32-36KPH. During this stretch, there was a group of cyclists in white jersey who keep on passing me. They’d ride probably at 40KPH or more, rest a bit, then do it again so I keep seeing them and getting left behind. It was great seeing a well-oiled team at the event.

Entering Iba, Zambales, we did a few turns to go from the National Highway to Govic Highway. It can be a bit difficult if you’ve never gone through here but you can study the cue cards and map to get a good idea. At the same time, the people there are very friendly and helpful if you need to ask for directions.

At 90+KM into the ride, I hit the rolling hills of Masinloc. Overall, they are not difficult climbs. Quite gradual but there’s some length in some of the climbs. But after riding for about 100KM already, this can be challenging. I encountered some headwinds as well which did not help. I remember climbing one hill and was excited about the downhill part. The headwind was so strong that I still had to pedal going down the hill to maintain my speed..

Once I saw the pack of bikers and a Total Gas Station sign, I was relieved. I reached Masinloc and the second checkpoint! Got my card signed, hit the bathroom, then went to a store to have some Gatorade and another gel.

It was 8 am so I was able to finish 100+KM in 4 hours which is great. I pick up my phone and call my wife. She just woke up again after seeing me off earlier in the morning and I updated her on my ride and told her a few stories. I gave her a quick ETA and rested a bit more. I also updated my dad via SMS. In total I probably stayed in the store for about 35min then I hit the road.

Third 50KM

For the third 50KM, you start with hitting the hills again. I took it slow and steady in the first few hills.

The stretch going to Iba was quite difficult for me. I was already at 120KM, almost tying my longest ride since then. The doubts started creeping in and felt the effects of everything so far. Then I remembered why I was doing this and who I am doing this for. I wanted to finish this. This is a goal I have been training for a long time. I want to finish this for my dad. I gave a really loud scream (literally) and pedaled on. I was probably rolling at around 27KPH.

I planned to eat at Iba. Once I got there, I didn’t feel hungry enough so I decided to push on.

Seeing and arriving at Cabangan checkpoint again, everything felt real. It was the last 50KM of the journey! I’ll make it! Just a bit more!

There was a team of cyclists I think sponsored by or are part of the Snow Bear (candy) company. They had a support vehicle and they were all so nice. They offered me food, Gatorade, bananas, or water. I will never forget your generosity and good heart so thank you!

I also had a nice conversation with another cyclist. He’s from Bataan and wouldn’t you know it, his uncle is a cyclist from Marikina who I’ve ridden with before with my dad.

So after a quick water break and those nice conversations, I updated my wife again and started pedaling. My mindset was better than ever knowing that this is the last stretch.

The Last 50KM

While I was excited and happy, I was still already quite tired. I took it nice and easy riding at about 23KPH. Then, a realization. SUBIC IS BIG.

I checked my map and realized there was still 30KM to go! Nevertheless, I was very excited since I know I am close.

Around 190KM, I had my last break and drank a Mountain Dew soft drink before going on again. It was here that my wife said she was still waiting for pizza so I told her I’d slow down a bit to ensure that she’s at the finish line when I arrive.

I pedaled and pedaled and I remember hitting a hill. I thought this was the last but remembered there was still one more climb, the one with the cemetery. I took my time and at the very last climb, I saw this amazing view. Since I wasn’t in a hurry, I took the opportunity to take a photo.

I was riding again and gave it all I could. Then I saw a sign to turn right to enter Subic again. Once I turned and passed the gate, I realized Mango Hotel was like 50 meters away!

I screamed at the top of my lungs and pumped my fist in the air! I arrived!

My wife was there looking so amazing. She hugged me and handed me two beers! My first couple of beers since I trained!

I got my card signed again and I got my medal! I finished with a strava time of just over 9 hours which I was extremely happy about since I was targeting 10 hours moving time. I felt so happy and accomplished! With a tear in my eye, I told my wife how much this meant to me especially her being there.

After the Audax Ride

The proof of my accomplishment, my Audax medal!

I walked with my wife back to the hotel and had an amazing post-ride meal of Adobo with rice (from the organizers) and a box of yellow cab pizza from my wife!

My dad is a huge inspiration for me doing this. He’s also a cyclist and he taught me everything I know. He may not be the strongest but he never stops; plus he still has tons of medals and trophies himself. I look up to him the most and it meant a lot to me to show him a medal I earned through cycling. This was it.

Advice for First Time Audax

My main advice for anyone taking their first 200KM, 300KM, or any other distance is to believe in yourself. Know what you can do, train for it, and keep a positive mindset. It is all on you. Just prepare properly and you will get through it.

And of course, have fun and keep riding!

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