Carmen Triathlon: Tiptoe, swim, pedal, run

Three Sundays ago, when I enumerated my shortlist of Cebuanos whom I respect the most in sports, I failed to include one name: Oscar “Boying” Rodriguez. The chairman of the Danao City Sports Commission, Boying is one of this island’s most recognizable youthful faces. Mountain-biking? Running? Cycling? Triathlon? Check, check, check… Mr. Rodriguez has nourished all these.

Two days ago, Boying was back in vigorous action. With the assistance of the Municipality of Carmen and the newly-activated group called SugbuTriathlon, he organized the 300-meter swim, 15K bike and 3K run contest named the Carmen Mini-Triathlon.

I joined. So did 24 others. Jonathan Guardo, a veteran of four Tris, participated. So did Sambag I barangay captain Jerry Guardo and Tinago councilor Joel Garganera—both first-timers. The seasoned triathletes were in full gear at the Carmen Breeze Resort: RJ Balbuena (who biked to and from Cebu City), Eugene Sanchez, Ralph Arce, Franz Baguio, Anton Regis, Freddy-Boy Veloso…

Like in any triathlon, the first part is the swim. The problem was, given the not-so-high tide last Sunday, when the gun fired and we were off, half of the swim distance we walked. No, make that tiptoed. Like an adventure race but minus shoes, on bare feet we navigated through muddy sand, jagged rocks and prickly corals. Two loops we circled to complete the tiptoe/swim.

Exiting the water, Joel Garganera and myself scrambled to find our mountain-bikes. After fastening our helmet belts, off we cycled. Joel was trailing me but, within five minutes, he disappeared. Then a police escort on a big bike scurried beside me to say that Joel’s bike chain broke—he had to stop.

Pedaling alone on Carmen’s perfect asphalt, you thrust your legs to prod those two rubber wheels to spin faster. An amazing occurrence happened that I never experienced before. That big motorbike with the marshal? He escorted me the entire 15K stretch. At first, since I was the last to bike, I thought that the last-placer would be escorted. But when I overtook a few triathletes along the road—the big bike still navigated beside me. Wow! I thought. Now I know how Lance Armstrong feels like!

After 30 minutes, it was time to dismount the bike and run the 3K. Now, here’s the ingenious part that Boying conceptualized: We ran two loops along a path that was packed with houses. And, on a lazy Sunday morning, everybody stood outside their homes to cheer; children extended high-fives.

One runner, though, did not appreciate the crowd: Daxkino Sarabosing. Running shirtless, the well-built triathlete later told our group at the finish line that a gang of gay men started whistling and calling him pretty names—to which he sprinted on and, to their shock, he exposed half of his buttocks!

Excluding the “tiptoe/swim,” the event was well-executed. Marshals (with walkie-talkies) stood at the intersections to direct traffic. An ambulance van revved its engine. Big-bike convoys were aplenty. The cycling route—exhausting because of a few gradual uphill climbs—was scenic and had minimal vehicle traffic. The running path teemed with people. Plus—important—bottled water was handed the runners.

I finished in 1 hour, 9 minutes. This was nowhere near the 48:31 time of Men’s Open winner Gerrie Calinawan—but, that’s fine with me. You see, in triathlon, the key word is tri. And we how to pronounce that word… Try.

Which brings me to this Sunday, March 29: the Danao Triathlon and Duathlon. Having the same 300-meter swim/15K bike/3K run distance as the previous “Pipit-Pipti” (since registration fee is only P50) triathlons, this will cap a blistering comeback for this sport. Why comeback? Because, after an absence of five years, triathlon has organized four events in 60 days: in Mactan, in Catmon, in Carmen and, in five days’ time, in Danao City. (There will also be a Duathlon: 3K run-15K bike-3K run.)

Tri it! Call Benjoe Gimenez at landline 5811958, Wewe at 2001212 or log-on to the SugbuTriathlon website.

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