Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Pete Jacobs: The Reign King

With steel-eyed determination and focus, Pete Jacobs (in the middle and with #1 painted on him) locked in even before the get-go. The result, another Ironman championship.

The Reign King
What’s love got to do with rice cookers, setting records, and a race for the ages? Everything as Pete Jacobs repeats as Philippine Ironman champion and creates memories that will last a lifetime. By Rick Olivares with photo by Brosi Gonzales

Around six o’clock in the morning, the participants for the 2011 Cobra Ironman 70.3 Philippines gathered around the Lago del Ray at the Camarines Sur Water Complex to await the starting gun for a race many have trained for months on end.

Pete Jacobs shook a few hands. Some hoped that whatever luck or talent he may have reservoirs of would rub off on them. A few minutes later, the 30-year old Australian covered his eyes with his goggles and look straight ahead to the man-made lake.

The swim leg of triathlon races has always been his specialty. Heading into his third half-Ironman in the Philippines, Jacobs had not changed his strategy that was to out-swim the rest of the pack and hope that the lead would be sizeable enough to win the remaining two legs of the race. He looked up as the first drops of rain began to fall. “This is good,” the defending champion thought aloud. “It will stifle the heat.”

He was locked in. And as the starting gun sent the first wave of swimmers diving into the chilly waters, Jacobs plunged right in.

By the time he surfaced from the nearby but smaller wakeboard lake 24 minutes and 17 seconds later, he heard the cheers of the crowd. As he dashed towards the transition area for the bike course, the Aussie heard another cheer. He turned and fully expected to see Jesse Thomas and Cameron Brown hot on his tail. Instead, he saw Amanda Stevens coming flying down the path. “Better Amanda than those guys,” thought Jacobs.

Then the rain began to really pour. Onlookers scampered for cover while those with umbrellas or were under some form of cover stayed put.

In the previous day, some of the participants in the Ironkids competition took a spill along the bike course as the roads became slippery if not treacherous. Visibility turned bad.

Thomas, who got out of the water three minutes after the Australian, began to get worried. The bike course is a 45 km ride to snakes from the CWC to the barangay of Anayan across the Puentabella Highway and all the way to the town Goa, 45 km from the start of the leg. “I could only see the wheel of the bike in front of me,” Thomas later recalled. “But I did well enough there.”

While the rain cooled off the heat that saw it soar up to 30° Celsius the day before, it proved somewhat unnerving for other athletes. “I got nervous,” said American female pro Bree Wee who along with Australian Belinda Granger began to give Stevens some competition. “It doesn’t rain where I’m from so I am not used to it. So it affected my bike ride.”

In the meantime, Jacobs had increased his lead. He hoped to stretch it further as he had yet to fully test his left foot that was injured a few months back. “My injury gave me a chance to work on my swimming some more but it’s the run course that I hope to do well,” he said a day earlier.

The downpour actually worked in the favor of most athletes as they didn’t need to stop by water or hydration stations. “I thought the rain helped us turn in some good times,” Fil-American Arland Macasieb would later say.

The feared “rice cooker” -- that 9km stretch across rice paddies with no shade whatsoever – was trod without the expected brutal heat conditions. And still Jacobs led the field by the country mile. “You can do this,” he urged himself on.

In a testament to his focus and awareness of everything that was going on, he spotted his new bride, Jamie, who was just about to begin her run. He managed a quick kiss to wish her well before heading for the homestretch.

A few days prior to arriving in Camsur, the couple spent their honeymoon in nearby Caramoan. “It was nice to get some rest and spend my time with Jamie which really helped ease the pressure,” Jacobs said two days prior to the race. “And we got to see more of this beautiful country.”

With no challenger in close pursuit, a buzz went around the CWC that Jacobs was poised to successfully defend his Ironman Philippines title.

As Jacobs made his way down the familiar road beside the cabanas of the CWC that were lined with people, he finally broke out into a smile. He was close. And as he came within sight of the finish line, noted triathlon announcer Whit Raymond broke out in his trademark rollicking manner: “There he is! Here he comes. Oh, my goodness… another win here in Camsur (with Jacobs slowing down a bit to slap hands with the fans). C’mon, Camsur. From Australia… 2011 Cobra Ironman 70.3 Philippines champion… Pete. Jacobs! Oh, Yeah!”

The race had been run. At 3:51:43 to be exact and 20 minutes ahead of Thomas who would stagger in to finish second. Jacobs had defended his title and was a cinch to nail one of the precious slots to the Kona World Championships in October.

“It’s excellent!” blurted out the tired but elated triathlete before chugging down a bottle of Gatorade Blue Bolt. “My foot was just fine. I did better than I expected and I’m just so happy.”

Despite being tired, Jacobs patiently did his television interviews and smiled for the cameras.

As he made his way to a nearby tent for a quick massage, Jacobs, in a moment of supreme clarity said, “Let’s do this. I have to wait at the finish line for my wife.”

“It’s a most memorable honeymoon,” he smiled as he disappeared inside the tent.


Additional reading:
Ironman story I penned for interaksyon:

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