Mayor Rex Gerona and the Tabuelan 111

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The Cobra Ironman 70.3 event will be this August 4. Prior to this triathlon race that is billed as Cebu’s biggest sporting affair, a must-race swim-bike-run meet is the Tabuelan 111 — which swims off this Sunday, June 16.

While Ironman’s “70.3” refers to 70.3 miles total (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, and 13.1-mile run), the Tabuelan organizers have creatively transformed the distance to kilometers: 2K swim, 90K bike and 21K run. Thus, 111 kms.

The municipality of Tabuelan, with a population of less than 25,000, is behind this hugely popular race. Credit goes to the leader of Tabuelan: Mayor Rex Casiano Gerona.

Here’s my Q & A with the 41-year-old mayor-triathlete whose motto is, “If others can do it, so can I.”

Why triathlon? Mayor Rex: “I weighed around 230 lbs and health problems started to arise like high cholesterol and high blood pressure. I felt I needed to exercise and do something for my health and for my family. Triathlon appealed to me because it is more challenging with three different areas which includes swimming, biking and running. I lost over 50 lbs. in a years’ time and have become healthier.”

How did you start? “When I read in a local daily that the Ironman 70.3 will be held in Cebu, it really interested me. Even without any background in swimming, biking and running, I tried to register on-line and when I was finally registered, I immediately decided to diligently train with less than 8 months to the said event.”

What events have you finished? “Cebu Marathon, Bohol Marathon, Ultra Marathon 50k, Bohol Timex 226, Cobra Ironman 70.3, Cebu Triathlon Leg Series, Cagayan de Oro NAGT Series, Camiguin Triathlon, Bantayan, Sogod, San Remigio, Siquijor, Dakak, Carmen, Danao City, Dalaguete and the Tabuelan 111”

With the Bohol Timex 226 (3.8K swim, 180K bike, and 42K run), how did you do it?     “Actually I had less than a year training before I started! Triathlon training January 2012 then joined the Bohol Timex 226 triathlon Dec. 1, 2012 at Anda, Bohol. It was self-fulfillment because that is the ultimate dream of every triathlete — to be able to finish a 226 race. I finished it at around 14 hours which was a strong finish for a first timer with less than one year triathlon experience. I was also very happy to finish it with four of my close triathlon buddies who were first timers as well. Sweet victory for all of us! So happy my family was there to support me all the way.”

Future events you’re joining? “Tabuelan 111; Cebu 100k Ultramarathon July; Cobra Ironman 70.3 in August; Busselton IMWA in December, which will be my first full Ironman international triathlon; Melbourne IMWA in March 2014.”

How did you make Tabuelan 111 so popular? “When I was planning to join the Cobra Ironman 70.3 last August, 2012 in Cebu, many fellow triathletes were not able to register and others have not tried the said distance so it was just a good chance to offer them more or less the same distance at a cheaper cost, thus, a good value for their money. No other triathlon event offers such distance before the IM70.3 race.”

Why is Tabuelan ideal for triathlon? “We had good feedback last year that it was well-organized, the community was very supportive and we closed the road to traffic especially during the bike course which was highly appreciated. We have white sand beaches and the roads are in good condition. It is also cheaper to go there so it’s really money’s worth!”

What to expect? “A better race over last year. We had almost 200 participants last year. Now, over 500 triathletes have registered so it’s more challenging for all the participants as well as to the organizers. We have prepared personalized kits and finisher shirts. We are now using timing chips used in Ironman events.”

Advice to the other mayors? “We are trying to promote Sports tourism not just in Tabuelan but Cebu as a whole. As municipal mayor, I am a model not just for the youth but for everyone who wants to live a healthier life. It’s never too late for I decided to be a triathlete at the age of 40.”

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