Try the Tri? Yes, this sport is worth Tri’ing

If you know how to float on water and can swim the freestyle or breast-stroke, if you can mount a bicycle and pedal it forward, if you can plant one foot in front of the other and run, then I suggest you consider joining one sport.

Sorry, it’s not one sport. It’s Tri. As in “three.” You know, with words like “tricycle” or “triangle” or “tripartite,” this word is the same: It’s one sport partitioned with three legs.

Triathlon, it’s named, and, for the first time, I joined an event last Sunday in Catmon. It was a mini-triathlon—nowhere near the Hawaii Ironman—with distances that any regular exerciser can finish: a 300-meter swim, 15K bike and 3,000-meter run. My advice to all?

Tri is a must-try. Really, you should.

The next one is next Sunday on March 15. Organized by Oscar “Boying” Rodriguez, the head of the sports commission of that city, it will be held in Danao City. The distances? The same as Catmon’s.

Who should Tri? Plenty. Swimmers who can run and bike. Runners—and they number by the thousands—who can freestyle and pedal. Cyclists who can move on water and glide on land.

For a runner/biker like myself, the biggest challenge was the swim on the open sea. Was my Sunday experience intimidating? Horrifying?

No, no. But it wasn’t also the most leisurely of experiences. I know how to swim—most of us do—and I’ve swam since elementary; but I don’t swim often. The only times I do are when the family heads to Mactan (seldom) or when Jasmin and I dip in the pool with our 10-year-old daughter Jana (occasionally).

And so, my biggest worry was the swim. How did last Sunday turn out? With only two practice swims, I had difficulty—but I never felt frightful.

Two reasons why it went fine: The 300-meter distance is short and they have a rope (with buoys) that span the entire swim. So if you’re tired or wanting to gasp for air, you hold. No worries. Try the Tri.

If March 15 is too soon for you, there’s another one in Bantayan Island on April 8, during the Holy Week. This one, though, will involve farther distances: the Sprint Triathlon (750-meter swim, 20K bike and 5K run) and the Olympic Distance.

“Apart from Bantayan,” said Jerome Mil, a former triathlete and event organizer, “there will probably be another Tri this April. Next, we’re planning the SRP Triathlon in May. Plus one or two more later that month and in June.”

That’s plenty—and terrific news. After a surge from the years 2000 to 2003 that saw Cebu hold as many as 14 races in 12 months, the past five years have seen triathlon “drowned” with rarely an event.

Not in 2009. Led by a bunch of triathletes who call themselves “SugbuTriathlon,” the group brainstormed last December and, by January, held their first event in Mactan. Last Sunday in Catmon was their second. Danao is third.

“We’ve called these events ‘Pipti-Pipti’ because years back, the registration fee would cost between P350 to P500 per person,” said Jerome. “It wasn’t cheap. Now, we’ve decided to invite new participants and reduced the fee to pipti (P50).”

Apart from Jerome Mil, the lead group of SugbuTriathlon include, among many, Eugene Sanchez, Benjoe Jimenez, Ian Gonzaga, Anton Regis and Jun Villamor. Well-known triathlon coach, Loy Rafols, is helping out.

Even during triathlon’s peak in the year 2000, they only averaged about 35 participants joining, Jerome confided. That’s too few. “We saw the same faces in each event,” he said.

How to convince more to Tri? Two suggestions: First, hold more mini-triathlons. These events are condensed and easeful—perfect for first-timers. (In the past, can you imagine, as a beginner, having to join an Olympic distance involving a 1.5K swim, 40K bike and 10K run for your first triathlon? That’s dreadful.)

Second, make the swim easy. Continue having the rope and buoys. If possible, allow life-vests and floating devices for those unsure of their first swim.

With these—plus SugbuTriathon back on the saddle—the year ‘09 will see triathlon swimming back to life.

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