Monthly Archives: January 2015

The Cebu City Triathlon (CCT) experience

cebu-city-triathlon-2015Every time you coin the words “first” and “inaugural” in an event, there will always be hiccups. Not this time. That’s because the women and men behind the 1st Cebu City Triathlon are, themselves, runners, cyclists and swimmers.

That’s why, when you scan the reviews and browse through the Facebook photos after last Sunday, you’ll read nothing but praises for the organizers. I’ll say the same thing I said two months ago after San Remigio 8080: Kudos to Steve and Maricel Maniquis, Quinito Moras, Joel Juarez, Niño Abarquez and the rest of what is rapidly evolving as the top triathlon organizers in our island. CCT: Congratulations, Cornerstone Team.

What was different about the Cebu City Triathlon? First, it’s located, from start to finish, within the boundaries of the oldest city in the country. How often can a triathlon event boast that claim? I think none before. I believe this is a first with Cebu City.

How possible? Two words: swimming pool. While all other triathlon events involve the open waters of Bogo or Dalaguete or Tabuelan, this one is chlorine-vaccinated. It’s pool water. (Amale Jopson tells me that this is quite common and popular in Manila — but a new concept for our city.)

The swim was conducted in the 50-meter swimming pool of the Cebu City Sports Center — a first, I believe, at the CCSC. The next question: How do you fit 250 athletes in one rectangular body of water? The answer: You group them according to “waves.” The elite men and women (Noy Jopson, Joseph Miller) start first at 6 a.m. Next, ten minutes later, the women (Nia Aldeguer, Rhoanne Salimbangon) follow. Ten minutes after the girls, the 15 to 19 age bracket kicks off. And so forth until all the groups are swimming, free-styling, breast-stroking. It’s a fun (and somewhat chaotic) sight.

In CCT, the swim is only 750 meters long. I say “only” because, in comparison, the Ironman 70.3 race involves 1,900 meters of Shangri-La-waters swimming.

To complete 750 meters on the pool, you make five laps at 50 meters per lap for a total of 250. After one loop, you get off the pool, run around the pool then start again. You do three loops to complete 750 meters. This makes for a swim-run, swim-run, swim CCT start.

I joined last Sunday’s race and, I must admit, I had a lot of difficulty with the swim. You’re less buoyant compared to the salt water/open sea. There are 70 or more of you swimmers in the same pool, all scrambling and kicking and scooping water. I’m a non-swimmer and it’s a completely different “washing machine-like” atmosphere compared to when you’re practicing laps by your lone self. Lesson for me: more practice!

But to majority of participants, I think they enjoyed the swim. It’s less intimidating than the choppy waves and strong current of, say, Mactan; it’s a good first Tri’ to try.

After the 750-meter swim, it’s off to the bike. Positioned under the grandstand area of the CCSC, the bikes are formed in a long row. You clip-on your helmet, wear your shoes, then you’re off to the exit..

Biking along Osmeña Boulevard down to Colon St. and passing Sto. Niño Church all the way to Plaza Independencia was a terrific experience. No other time are the streets free of vehicles for you to travel 30 kph on two leg-powered wheels.

The bike leg was 20 kms. — mostly at the South Road Properties. What a fantastic moment to pedal without traffic at the SRP.  The only challenge: it rained hard that 5 a.m. and it was still raining when many biked. The route was expertly managed with an “M” loop, similar to the one for IM70.3.

After the 20K on wheels, it’s back to CCSC to deposit the bikes and the last leg was for the legs. It’s a short 5-km. run from the rubberized oval in Abellana towards the Provincial Capitol and back… with a nice downhill boost on the return before circling the oval until you cross the finish arc.

The fastest? CCT: Chiongbian & Chiongbian Tandem… brothers Justin and Yuan.

Edwin Salazar in the Australian Open

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Tennis was introduced to him by his dad Doroteo Salazar and mom Zenaida. “I was 13 then,” recalls Edwin, whose first backhands were hit at the court “in the Reclamation Area near the old White Gold.” But it was at the Casino Español where, almost nightly, he would smother those Rafael Nadal-like topspin forehands.

Edwin Salazar is now Australian. A top engineer whose family owns the Salazar Colleges of Science And Institute of Technology (SCSIT) here in Cebu, Edwin has relocated to Australia since 2007.

He and his family reside in the City of Gold Coast, Queensland. “This is the equivalent of Boracay – a tourist destination,” said Edwin, who works as Senior Drainage Asset Engineer for the city, leading a team of engineers managing the city’s $4 billion flood mitigation and drainage assets. “All flooding concerns from residents, businesses, councilors & even the mayor come to my section,” he said. “When not at my normal job, I assist (wife) Pipin run The Filipino Shop — a specialty shop that does international money remittance, sea and air cargo, beauty products and Filipino groceries.” Edwin says that his three kids (Paolo, Urick & Wren) now call Australia as home while he, a Cebuano by heart, still considers Cebu City as “my home.”

While Edwin has been in and out of Australia since 1991 (he studied his MBA in Bond Univ.), he has never watched the Australian Open, opting for the nearby Brisbane Open the past four years. A tennis fanatic who owns a wicked topspin forehand, Edwin finally made the trip to Melbourne this week.

“I was watching the Brisbane Open the other week so the expectation was building up,” he said. “The things that you see, hear and experience builds up the atmosphere. As I was heading to the hotel from the airport, you see banners about the Aus Open along the streets. As you head to the venue, the City of Melbourne offers free tram, train and bus rides to the venue. You see posters and banners of products/services endorsed by Federer, Novak, Nadal and the fastest server in the world, who is Australian. The atmosphere is like the days leading to a Palarong Pambansa.”

Engr. Salazar watched two days. “I wanted to experience the day the gates are opened. So at 9am on Opening Day, I was there with about 50 people. By 10am, the crowd at the gates swelled to 5 thousand. There was a record attendance of over 71,000 just on the first day. I watched for 14 hours — the longest I did in my life; from 10am to 12am.” The next day, he did another marathon tennis sitting, watching from 12 noon until 10 p.m.

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“I got overwhelmed seeing Federer, Nadal, Novak, Serena Williams, Kournikova, Sharapova, Wawrinka and many more,” said Edwin. “In the outside show courts, I was seated beside the coaching team of Richard Gasquet while watching him play.”

Rod Laver Arena is the tournament’s center court. Inside, said Edwin, “the atmosphere is nice to experience especially if an Australian is playing. Lahi gyud ug local boy ang nag duwa. The fanatics, a group of 20-25, have a repertoire of cheers that can pump up the player and the crowd. This group creates the atmosphere. They cheer, dance, wear nationalistic costumes. See my selfie with them. This was experienced during Hewitt vs. Zhang. Also, the human wave. But have you seen the slow motion human wave? I experienced that in the Hewitt game.”

Edwin longed to take an autograph with a top player. “While having my burger for lunch Tuesday noon, Yvonne Golangong, one of Australia’s greats, was having a meeting in the next table. Yvonne was the only legend I could get close to.”

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Forever a Bisaya, Edwin talked about food. “There were stalls all over serving pizza, burgers, fish and chips, and ice cream,” he said. “Problem is I have a Filipino tongue. So I did not enjoy the food much. I would rather go for barbeque, tinola or sinugba.”

Next month when his school, SCSIT, celebrates its Founders Day (57th, if I’m not mistaken), Edwin will come home to play tennis and to savor the food that not even Melbourne can offer.

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Pope Francis: Be ‘athletes of Christ’

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In July of 2013, Pope Francis stood before hundreds of thousands of young people on Copacabana Beach. Here’s what he said during the 14th World Youth Day: “A field is a training ground. Jesus asks us to follow him for life, he asks us to be his disciples, to ‘play on his team.’ I think that most of you love sports! Here in Brazil, as in other countries, football is a national passion. Now, what do players do when they are asked to join a team? They have to train, and to train a lot! The same is true of our lives as the Lord’s disciples. Saint Paul tells us: ‘Athletes deny themselves all sorts of things; they do this to win a crown of leaves that withers, but we a crown that is imperishable’ (1 Cor 9:25).

“Jesus offers us something bigger than the World Cup! He offers us the possibility of a fulfilled and fruitful life; he also offers us a future with him, an endless future, eternal life. But he asks us to train, ‘to get in shape,’ so that we can face every situation in life undaunted, bearing witness to our faith. How do we get in shape? By talking with him: by prayer, which is our daily conversation with God, who always listens to us. By the sacraments, which make his life grow within us and conform us to Christ. By loving one another, learning to listen, to understand, to forgive, to be accepting and to help others, everybody, with no one excluded or ostracized. Dear young people, be true “athletes of Christ!”

Beautiful! Just like all the messages that we’ve heard from the Holy Father these past few days.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born 78 years ago in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In a nation that has produced Diego Maradona, the pope grew up following the local Club Atletico San Lorenzo squad. Lionel Messi, his countryman, upon meeting the pope last year, said these words: “Without doubt, one of the most special days of my life.”

In May of last year at the Vatican, the pope tackled the game of football. He spoke to the Italian and Argentinian teams.

“He reminded the players that they are role models for many football fans and encouraged them to take that responsibility seriously. He then asked them to foster the ‘beauty, generosity, and camaraderie’ that sport can produce,” said the story in the Catholic Herald website.

“Pope Francis… called on players to ‘live your sport as a gift from God, an opportunity not only to improve your talents, but also a responsibility.’ And he returned to the idea that athletes should act as role models, encouraging them to set an example of loyalty, respect, and selflessness. ‘I have confidence,’ he said, ‘in all the good you can do, especially among young people.’

“Pope Francis concluded by praying that the athletes will continue to be able to pursue the “noble vocation” of sport – and he asked them to pray for him, too, ‘that in the playing field that the Lord has placed me, I can play the game honestly and courageously, for the good of all.’”

Manny – Money

I recently met a top official who, after speaking to Manny Pacquiao earlier this week, confided to me the following: “Madayon ang fight!” Manny told him. Both camps have ironed out the details and are just awaiting for the Super Bowl to announce the bout. Two stumbling blocks previously stood in the way. First, the prize money. Manny agreed to a 60-40 split, in favor of Floyd, for the first $100 million; but he wanted a 75-25 split that would go to the winner (after $100 million). Floyd said no; Manny gave in. So it’s a 60-40 split all the way. Another challenge: the rematch clause. Manny wanted a one-fight contract (this way, if he wins, he’ll demand the terms of the rematch). But Floyd said no; Manny, again, relented. An interesting footnote, said my source: When asked how confident he was, Manny exuded his usual smiling bravado. Kaya ra na, said Manny. The reason why everyone has difficulty against Floyd is because they’re right-handers, said MP. When Floyd raises his shoulder as shield, guess what’s awaiting him? Manny’s left-handed smash.

The 2015 Cebu Marathon

What a way to start the new year! On the 11th day of what is expected to be a grueling and up-and-down-and-up 365 days of 2015, thousands joined the Cebu Marathon last Sunday.

This will be a terrific year. To those who doubted if they’d be able to finish 21 kms. by foot or those who previously thought that running 42,195 meters was unthinkable — well, think again. You’ve done it. To the brave, to the bold and yes, to the barefooted… kudos!

You might still be limping today. Your calf muscles are still as hard as stone. But those memories: the 1 a.m. wake-up call; those joyful minutes that transformed into painful hours; all those weeks of training and thousands of pesos spent on running gear and registration fees last year; they’re all worth it. You’ve made it. What a running start for 2015.

The over three thousand participants, including dozens of foreigners, could not have asked for better weather. The skies were not only rain-free (unlike last year’s deluge of sky water); the temperature was cool. To those who ran the return stretch at the SRP, weren’t those clouds God-provided to help you? The ideal conditions provided the backdrop for many to do a PR.

This was the 8th edition of CCM. The first two were labeled “Sinulog Half-Marathon” and the last six included 42Ks. Some have made it a Sinulog-type of pilgrimage, running every second Sunday of the year, joining every CCM. Like Abby Ponce. Another is my ultra-marathoner idol, Tony Galon, who’s done 7. Same with Atan Guardo, who finished with a speedy time of 4:24.

Why run the marathon? It’s a crazy thought, no? Willfully inflicting pain on yourself while others are fast asleep. There are many reasons. For some, their loss of 60 lbs. of body weight has enabled them to be lighter — like CERC president Steve Ferraren, who ran his 28th marathon. For others, it’s to escape pain; yes, how ironic: to escape pain, you inflict pain; but marathon running counters all other problems we have at home and at work. It’s an escape and a legal drug. For many, because it’s a goal that seemed impossible to accomplish.. then. But now, they’ve deleted the word’s first two letters and made it possible.

In behalf of RunRio and CERC (Cebu Executive Runners Club), we thank numerous groups who have made CCM15 another good run.

Dr. Peter Mancao and his team of dozens of doctors (Dr. Arnold Tan was at the finish) and nurses and volunteers, who assembled medical stations and paraded ambulances throughout the route.

To Citom, to our police, and to the hundreds of marshals: I don’t think Cebu has seen a road race as cordoned-of and safe for the runners as last Sunday’s.

To our Hydration Station partners: Bionic Builders (of soon-to-be-Ironman Bernard Sia), the Primary Group of Builders (of marathoner Wally Liu), Cebu Grand Hotel (of 21K finisher Carlo Suarez), Filinvest, Aeolus Tires (of Gerard Tan, who personally handed out water and Gatorade), to Barangay Lahug, Honda Motor World of Jonel Borromeo, Cebu Parklane Intl. Hotel, Holiday Gym and Spa (represented by Veron Enriquez); to Tinago Brgy. Captain Joel Garganera, to the Talisay City officials; to Joel Juarez, who coordinated for majority of the technical needs… To Ayala Center Cebu, the event’s main sponsor and venue… To Rio de la Cruz, who expertly managed the event with his RunRio team, spearheaded by Franco Bambico and JP Arandia… thank you.

Finally, I quote Patrick Concepcion, the organizer of the Condura Skyway Marathon (which runs this Feb. 1), who joined the marathon four mornings ago and wrote in his blog: “All things considered, the Cebu Marathon is beautiful and probably one of the best I’ve run thus far in the Philippines. I highly recommend you include this marathon in your bucket list.”

To those who didn’t join last weekend, see you on Jan. 10, 2016.

Pit Senyor!

Jacksonville Marathon: Surviving 26.2 miles

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JACKSONVILLE—Happy New 2015! I continue our U.S. trek: After braving the 2C cold in New York and spending 30 hours in Washington, D.C. to view the White House and the National Mall, we traveled down south.

We’re in Florida where the weather is like… Cebu’s. Yes, it’s winter-time in America but it’s sunny in Jacksonville.

Tony and Sol Baluyot are my wife Jasmin’s relatives. Tita Sol is the younger sister of my mother-in-law, Malu Mendez. When we planned our Christmas trip to the East Coast, we made sure that we’d spend time at the Baluyot home in Jacksonville, where they’ve resided since 1977. I had never been to Florida and the last time Jasmin visited was 25 years ago.

This city is special. Jacksonville is the largest city in the entire U.S.A. in terms of land area. Based on Wikipedia, it covers 1,935 sq.kms. (compared to Cebu City’s 315). The nearby city of St. Augustine (about 45 minutes away) is historical because it’s the oldest city in the country.

Talking of sports, I’ve always envisioned on doing a “42 on 42.” That’s running the marathon when I’m the same age as the marathon distance. And so when Jasmin and I finalized our vacation, I googled “U.S. marathons in December.”

Would you believe, of the 52 Sundays in the year, the Jacksonville Marathon would fall on exactly the time that we’d be in the city: Dec. 28, 2014. Plus, and this would take on a stronger significance, my father-in-law Jack Mendez passed away last July. To run an event with the words “Jack” and “son” on them, this would be special.

And so it was set: six years after my last 42K (the Quezon City Intl. Marathon), I’d be running the distance again.

We arrived from Newark Intl. Airport (New Jersey) via United Express on a Friday afternoon. Hours after we were picked up at the JAX (shortcut for Jacksonville) Airport, I visited the Town Center Mall with Tito Tony to register onsite at the 1st Place Sports Running shop. I paid the $80 registration fee and got my bright orange-colored “Jacksonville Bank Marathon” shirt. This is it. Two mornings later, I’d be on the road by foot.

The Jacksonville Marathon, now on its 34th year, is a Boston-qualifying event ran on a flat course. The average temperature, reads the website, is 56 degrees F. That’s 13 Celsius — perfect for running.

The day before the race, Jasmin and I had to celebrate an important occasion: it was our 17th anniversary. We had dinner with the family at P.F. Chang’s.

On Dec. 28 (race day), I set the alarm at 4:59 but woke up much earlier (like all excitable marathoners do) at 2 a.m. I ate four slices of bread with peanut butter and drank coffee and orange juice.

Before 6 a.m. and with Tito Tony and Jasmin, I arrived at The Bolles School, the city’s most exclusive (and expensive) school, for the start.

(More on The Bolles School, I got an email message from Bill Byrd, now residing in Cebu but previously a Jacksonville resident, who said: “You might be interested to know that BASIC tuition at the Bolles School for grades 7-12, is $41,000.00 per school year–Again, that is just basic for room/board, and books… Don’t know if you have ever followed Major League baseball at all, but one famous former student from The bolles School is Chipper Jones all-star and future hall of famer, 3rd baseman for Atlanta Braves.”)

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The forecast: no rain. Good news because the year before, the runners were drenched with rain. I checked the history and it was varied. Some years, it was as cold as 9C; some, as warm as 25C. I prepared for the “worst:” Before leaving Cebu, I bought gloves, arm sleeves and a beanie totaling P300 from Gaisano Country Mall. These would be used at the start but disposed of after the body warms and sweat begins. I never got to use them. The weather was warm in Jacksonville. At 6 a.m., it was still comfortably cold (at 15C) but it would reach 24C later in the morning.

Jasmin joined me at the start and took photos. She left. I waited for an hour inside the indoor gym. I sat down, stretched and, with 15 minutes left, took a blueberry-flavored Gu gel. At 6:50, I took my position at the starting line. A few thousand stood ready for the race. Apart from the marathon, there are two other distances: half-marathon and the 5K.

Three minutes before gun start, the national anthem played. It can’t get better than this, I told myself. As the dawn’s early light arose, the anthem played, “Oh, say, can you see by the dawn’s early light…” At 7 a.m., the starting gun fired and 3,000 runners were off… The roads here are all asphalted. (If you’re a runner, you’ll know it’s softer than cement.) The best part: Residents along the route stood outside their homes to cheer. Many prepared placards to display. Since Americans don’t use the metric system (kms.), one poster read: “In a scale of 1 to 10, you’re 26.2!” That’s the marathon distance in miles. Another read, “Go, Random Stranger!”

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The race was well-organized. The registration process (both online and onsite) was easy. You can even register an hour before the start! (Something we can learn for the Cebu Marathon.)

Along the race route, uniformed policemen with their police cars were positioned all over. They’d block the side roads. One unexpected act that they did: they cheered you on. Not all police officers but some would greet “Good morning!” (We should request our Citom guys to do the same!) The course was flat and every mile had a marker with a digital clock. Water stations (with Gatorade) were plenty. These were all manned by volunteers —  hundreds of volunteers who did their work with greetings and smiles.

My first half was relaxed. The clouds covered the sun (sunrise here comes late, at 7:22 a.m.) in the first 13 miles. There were portions that were foggy; it was very scenic running in the inner roads amidst the Florida homes. I ran the first 21K in 2 hours and 14 minutes. I felt terrific (like many of us do halfway through the race.)

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But when I reached the 20th mile (Km. 32), that’s when my legs started to harden and ache. I’d stop every few hundred meters to walk and stretch; I slowed down. This was understandable because I only did one 30K in Cebu (with fellow CERC members Steve Ferraren, Roy and Rosan Trani, Jesse Taborada and Dodong Sulatre). As a final “long run,” I planned a 34K run (three weeks before race day) but Typhoon Ruby disrupted this plan.

The one thing that helped was the Bodivance cream (P55 per sachet in Runnr) which I applied to my muscle-fatigued legs. (Thanks to Dr. Tony San Juan for the suggestion.)

With hydration, I made sure to stop and drink at each station (found in every two miles). But if there’s one recommendation that I’d like to offer the organizers, it’s this: it would be good to offer bananas or chocolates in the last six miles. Though I took Gu (the energy gel) every 45 minutes, it wasn’t enough. By Mile 21, I had a case of “hypoglycemia” (hitting the wall) and I felt disoriented. It was at this point that I took more walking breaks.

My strategy: not to think of the remaining distance (let’s say, six miles) but to target a signage or a police car with blinking lights at a far distance and run without stopping towards it… then “reward” myself with a short walk upon getting there.

When I reached Mile 23, my legs started to cramp. Oh, no. This is the big challenge with running; unlike basketball or football, you can’t “run the clock.” You’ve got to run or walk and move forward to finish. Meaning, if you sprint so fast and you’re about to break the world record but you collapse 100 meters from the finish line, you can end up being the last finisher.

With those cramps in the last 5K, I walked, slow-jogged and made sure that I didn’t make any abrupt steps. Mentally, I told the cramps to stop. (After over four hours on the road, you can get desperate.) Plus, the previously cold skies weren’t cooperating. It was getting Cebu-hot, about 25C. The sun was starting to bake our weary backs.

Finally, seeing that “Mile 25” signage was a beautiful sight. At the last bend, we turned inside the The Bolles School as we entered a patch of grass before circling the rubberized track oval until the arms-up-the-sky finish. I finished in 4:47. Whew. Agonizing. Disorienting. Leg-cramping. But painfully fulfilling. This Sunday, it’s your turn with the Cebu Marathon.

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