Always the sucker for new things, new challenges that I am, I took to the world of triathlon like a child who just stepped into Disneyland for the very first time. Do I have the chaps for this multisport consisting of swimming, biking and running? I believe so for I know how to do these three very physically challenging sports, though not necessarily at that highly competitive level. The endurance I believe will come with time. The most pressing question for now would be, Do I have the pocket deep enough to be able to bankroll all expenses inquired in the indulgence of the sport? The answer is a very loud and resounding “no!” Hahaha…. Well maybe with time I will have the resources for this, maybe that is.
I won’t be dissuaded though from getting my feet into this seemingly very exclusive world of triathlon. To use the contraption of a clichéd saying, “If you can’t join them, COVER them!” As a blogger, I now have an avenue by which to be a part of the Philippines triathlon and the community that comprises it. So cover I did and what better start than the press conference of the Cobra Ironman 70.3 Philippines Powered to Victory, on its fifth year of staging since 2009?
Arriving at the Rizal Ballroom of Makati Shangri-La almost lunch time of Tuesday, July 2, I was greeted by the University of Cebu’s dancers in their shimmering turquoise Maria Clara gowns and regal barong Tagalogs at the entrance. The atmosphere is immediately festive and historical. But this is just a start of an afternoon of cultural immersion on the music, food (delectable lechon which had I been left to myself would have consumed the entire plate in a breath and super sweet mango slices which were paraded by the stage and the aisles by the servers as if to showcase their prominence among less dignified local fruits before they were placed on the table for us to savor) and dance of the Queen City of the South – Cebu courtesy of those that greeted me by the entrance.
Mr. Wilfred Steven Uytengsu, Jr., franchise owner of Ironman Philippines and Alaska Philippines, carried us through the history of Ironman Philippines and how the registration grew from a few hundreds to a thousand. In fact the number of registrants of the very first Ironman held at Camsur in the year 2009 is surpassed by the number of wait-listed participants as the allotted slots for this year’s edition was filled up in a matter of four days! To maintain the quality of the race, though, a limit to a certain number of registrants was set as per the capacity of the infrastructure, logistical considerations, accommodations and many other things above the want to increase revenue by accommodating all multisport enthusiasts whose number is ever increasing in this more and more becoming health conscious country of ours.
The lineup of the professional athletes for this year is impressive as more and more Kona World Championship hopefuls see not only the quality and beauty of this destination race but the significance of our humidity and heat in their training regimen as proven by Pete Jacob’s smashing performance to clench the World title and Caroline Steffen’s ever gaining strength in the marathon leg. Both will be the ones to watch out for not only in the Philippine leg but in the Kona edition as well. I firmly believe Caroline’s last kilometer run kick will be honed in the streets of Cebu and no Leanda Cave can contest that this time around! Obviously I am a great fan.
It is also noteworthy that our very own Monica Torres has leveled up into professional status in this edition of Ironman Philippines. If before she usually goes by the tag elite Philippine triathlete, now she is up there among the esteemed professional triathletes like my three favorites: Paula Newby Fraser, Natascha Badmann and Caroline Stefen.
Cebuano Kenneth Cobonpue of the World class rattan furnitures fame including the item prominently lying in the living room of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, once again was consigned to design a state-of-the-art ingenious medal very unique of the Philippine Ironman franchise. If only to get ones hand on these medals is worth all the pain and the suffering in trying to reach the finish line. The concept, Mr. Cobonpue relates, is making sure each sport is represented in the medal like three loops brought together as one. So he created this unique medal design where each loop is made up of different materials and corresponding color to represent each sport. For example a bluish metal for the swim part connects midway to a rubber like material for the bike leg and a more concrete looking rendition of a metalloid for the run part consisting the third part. The three loops are interconnected without touching at the center to create like a club shaped contraption. The trophy is designed similarly with bronze, silver and gold versions for each podium place.
The presence of the Mayor of Lapu-lapu City, Mayor Paz C. Radaza, promising full local government and townsfolks support mobilizing a strong 20,000 manpower to line every kilometer of the race route with cheerers, marshal/supporters and traffic enforers to ensure the most orderly and smooth course flow possible brought political credence to the event. This after all is the single most prominent event of international caliber that can bring tons of revenue and exposure to the fast growing metropolitan Lapu-lapu and Cebu cities. The support is so strong that even the swim leg is not wanting of cheerers! Riding in a multitude of vintas adding a festive atmosphere throughout the crystal blue waters lining the coast of this Visayan province, cheerers will provide a scenic encouragement for submerged competitors.
Lots of local triathlon personalities are also present. More prominent among the group my limited familiarity as a runner can muster are Ani de Leon-Brown, one of my local idols too who remained strong and fast despite being sidelined with pregnancy, and humble despite the fame; Jaymie Pizzaro, Miss Bullrunner herself, who every runner worth his or her running mettle should be acquainted with being the propoment of Dream Marathon for first or second time marathoners; David Charlton of Team David Salon, a group of gutsy and competitive female triathletes who, if the registration statistics are to be believed, are part of the measly 15% female registrants, Carlo de Guzman of SBR.ph, the triathlon counterpart of Takbo.ph as the most prominent website of all things triathlon, who during the program gave Ironman Philippines “The Most Favorite Triathlon Event of the Year” award in his website’s poll contest; Mathieu O’Halloran who heads the Team Bike Boutique Philippine sector of super coach to top world professional triathletes like Crissy Wellington and Caroline Steffen, Brent Sutton, in training promising young local triathletes for future fame, among others. Hopefully, with more immersion to the triathlon Philippine world, I will be acquainted with more.
Indeed the triathlon revolution has gripped the local scene like a red hot fever (to borrow my biker/runner/poi and tap dancer/singer/writer par excellance friend Jean Sequina’s phrase). Leveling up is never a few individuals’ prerogative. In fact in almost any endeavor, we strive to push a bit further and higher each time. We are not unlike gadgets in this regard. As runners, we started with joining 5Ks, then move on to 10K after a month or two, then to half marathon and then eventually to the full marathon races which is not a “fun” run anymore. So in this regard, we have graduated from fun runners to marathoners. But for some, they will not stop at the 42nd kilometer, they want to push their limits further and further! They become ultramarathoners.
Some not keen on the ultra-route put their sights in multisport realm. A good leap forward toward this direction is joining duathlons or aquathlons, which are two-sport events, depending on which among biking or swimming one learned to add to running first. On my part, I learned how to swim during college which is some 20 years ago but have not had done such after, so I bought a bike, a very cheap and heavy one, and pedaled away to love at first sight status. So I will do duathlon first and aquathlon next.
Whatever it is you set your sights into be it the ultra or the tri route, make a move, make a change, make some adjustments. Whatever it is, just move ahead, level up, NOW! Or get left behind. Not fabulous!
Uzi Mode at Press Launch