Category Archives: Triathlon

Mayor Rex Gerona and Tabuelan 226


After five years of Tabuelan 111 — recognized as the country’s “Best Domestic Sports Event” last year during the 1st Philippine Sports Tourism Awards in Resorts World Manila — comes the same back-breaking event but with over twice the distance.

“Tabuelan 111 is considered as the best local triathlon race in our country. It has everything any triathlete would want,” Tabuelan Mayor Rex Gerona said. “Because of the success of the event, Tabuelan decided to level up by organizing the first-ever full distance triathlon race in Cebu.”

That’s a 3.8K swim, 180K bike and 42.2K run for a total of 226 kms. The date is September 16.

“We will be more focused since we are looking at a maximum of 200 participants only compared to almost 800 with Tabuelan 111,” said the mayor, who credits the volunteers composed of the Tabuelanons — the race marshals, water station personnel, medical teams and security — as the reason for the event’s success.

“We invested on training the organizing team. We spent time to make sure that the race would be unforgettable and checked every single detail. It has become Tabuelan’s pride!” he added. “With Tabuelan 226, we are counting on their support since this year’s cut-off is at 12 midnight.”

Tabuelan is not a large municipality. Of the Province of Cebu’s three million residents, Tabuelan is one of 44 municipalities and has a small population of less than 30,000. Despite that, Tabuelan is hugely popular in the triathlon community.

The reason: Mayor Rex Gerona. He used to weigh 230 lbs. and was pained with multiple health problems back in 2010. Mayor Rex lost 50 lbs. and transformed himself into a swim-bike-run athlete. To date, he has finished incredible feats: a 160K ultramarathon, the Ironman 70.3 for five years, the Giro d’ Luca cycling event in Bohol, the Cebu Marathon (thrice), the 10K Caramoan Island swim and a Full Ironman in Western Australia.

Thanks to triathlon, Tabuelan has achieved plenty. Said the mayor: “There is a considerable boost in our local tourism. Public recognition is achieved. We’ve created economic growth through filled resorts, home stays, restaurants, and have enhanced the positive image of Tabuelan. We’ve also built community relationships, strengthened corporate support and created youth opportunity.”

To top it all, Tabuelan 226 will do something extraordinary.

“All race kits and medals will be personalized,” Mayor Rex said. “This is a first in the triathlon world.”

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.

8080 Triathlon in San Remigio

Abby Ponce wrote in her Facebook page yesterday: “What better way to cap off my initial year as a triathlete than do it the 8080 way? San Rem 8080 was way better than the Bogo edition with closed roads, a very challenging tough swim course (all of us underestimated this – it was not shallow at all and was ‘bawd’ and my Garmin measured it at 2.35k!!) not to mention that killer 65k bike route. In the end, it was my background as a runner that saved the day for me. Congratulations Cornerstone, that was a well organized race, marshals who stayed with us to the end, townspeople who bathed us with water plus that nice loot bag (yey! bike cover!/two finishers shirts/vmv products/unbamboo medals-shhh lupig sunrise events).”

I agree with Abby. It was well-organized. Kudos to Steve and Maricel Maniquis, Quinito Moras, Joel Juarez, Mayor Mariano Martinez and the hundreds of volunteers and officials who helped organize last Saturday’s “8080 Triathlon” event in San Remigio.

The morning began with a prayer. It was the first year anniversary of Typhoon Yolanda that ravaged many areas, including San Rem.

The race proper? Roads were cleared for the cyclists. The pristine waters were rid of sea urchin. In every kilometer of the Run, there was a hydration station complete with Gatorade, Nips chocolates and medical personnel. The celebration? It started at 4 p.m. when live DJs played nonstop and bands strummed their guitars for the party. Food and San Mig Light overflowed.

Cornerstone Group, the organizers, promised an “easy swim.” And though the water wasn’t shallow, safety was paramount. Boats and bancas surrounded us. A rope with buoys lined the middle. Best of all — and I think this is a first in Philippine triathlon — a neon-colored string was embedded on the sea bottom. It was the perfect guide to follow — so you’ll swim a straight path. Well done, Niño Abarquez.

For me, joining my first full Tri’ race, the swim had always been scariest. Staying all the way back at the start to avoid the early commotion, I got stuck with plenty blocking the way. It was a “washing machine” and the first 10 minutes was a struggle. And the swim was 1.8 kms. far! Thankfully, the 200 or so traithletes spread out. Eventually, I relaxed and enjoyed the water.

The bike ride was bad and good. First, it was hot. This event could have been renamed “Sun” Rem because of the sun. We started the race at 12:30 p.m. and the sky was cloudless. My 8080 distance meant two loops of 32.5 kms. for a total of 65K. Unlike Cebu City’s flat roads, in San Remigio it was up-and-down rolling terrain. But what a sight to see long stretches of cemented road with no cars. (Though several accidents still happened in the bike portion.)

After endless minutes of pedaling, I entered the transition area with many participants already finished! Those joining “4040” (900-meter swim, 32.5K bike, and 7K run) were done. While they were relaxing, we still had to complete a 14K run.

I had cramps starting the first kilometer of the run. With hardly any practice of what they call “brick” (transition), I suffered leg pain after that swim-to-run transition. The cramps continued in the first 7K loop.

During the run, children lined-up the inner roads to high-five the runners. What’s different about this race is the schedule. Instead of starting early and finishing the run at noon, this time it’s inverted: you start at noon and end with the comfortable late-afternoon shade.

Dr. Ron Eullaran completed his first triathlon (4040) event. Same with Rhoanne Salimbangon, accompanied by her husband (and two-time IM70.3 finisher) Ken. Cebu City Councilor Mary Ann de los Santos completed the 8080, sprinting towards the end in applause. At the finish, after you cross that line, a bottle of water and a can of beer is handed to you. It’s time to drink and rejoice after the pain — especially for many of us first-timers who Tri’d our best.

Eighty eighty


Today, there are various numbers that proliferate in the triathlon scene. There’s “111” (Tabuelan). There’s “123” (DEFY 123). There’s “5150” (Olympic distance), “70.3” (Half-Ironman), and “226” (Timex Bohol).

These all pertain to the distance. In the case of Tabuelan, that’s 111 kms. — swim for 2-K, bike for 88-K, and run for 21-K.  With the extremely difficult “226,” that’s similar to the full Ironman distance: 3.8-K swim, 180-K bike plus a full marathon. (Crazy distance, no?)

There’s one more number that’s invaded the Tri’ calendar and it’s happening next Saturday, November 8.

8080. If you’re Chinese and believe in the lucky powers of the number “8,” then you’ll be happy. If you’re a graphic artist, you’ll note that when you handwrite the digits “0” and “8,” they’re endless loops — the same loops that triathletes will traverse in San Remigio.

Cornerstone Group is the organizer. Led by Steve Maniquis, he gathered two others — Quinito Moras and Joel Juarez — two years ago and decided to start an event-organizing company that “would make quality triathlon events and fun runs.”

1.8-K swim + 65-K bike + 14-K run. Summed up, that’s 80.80 kms.

“We came up with the 8080 distance,” said Steve, “so people could slowly increase their distance if they wanted to eventually do a 70.3 or Half-Ironman. We feel that the distance is finding a niche in the triathlon community.”

The Nov. 8 race in San Remigio was scheduled because it was one year ago — Nov. 8, 2013 — when a major tragedy truck our nation. “It’s our way of commemorating the one year anniversary of Yolanda,” said Steve. Next year, Cornerstone has lined-up four events: a Sprint distance in January plus three more 8080s: March in Daanbantayan, May (location to be finalized) and back to San Remigio in Nov. 2015.

Like many from Cebu, Steve got bitten by the tri-sport bug just recently, joining his first Sprint race in February 2012. He pedaled onwards, joining the IM70.3 races last year and last August.

What’s remarkable is that Mr. and Mrs. Maniquis are both Ironman 70.3 individual finishers. Maricel Martinez Maniquis, Steve’s wife and a long-time friend, herself completed the IM70.3 race last August. Next year, both husband and wife plan to do another round of IM70.3 races in Cebu and in Vietnam.

What makes 8080 different? For one, the starting time. Unlike all other events that start before 7 a.m., this race begins at high noon! Yes, around 12:30 p.m. The reason: in San Remigio, the low tide means really shallow waters. At noon, it’s the highest of tides and the best time for that freestyle. “The noon time start will make for a not-so-hot run portion and the swim portion will not be too deep,” said Steve.

There’s also a 4040 category — half the full distance. Plus, relay teams are welcome in both divisions. The event will be on a Saturday (while most are on Sunday). Timing chips will be used. “The bike route will be closed for a safer bike ride,” added Steve. “It’s a longer race than the Standard or Olympic distance and it’s also draft legal for the bike so it makes for a faster and more strategic race.” During and after the race, the party will be hosted by Cable Car.

“Triathlon is still growing but you are already seeing derivative forms like CrossFit and Adventure racing gaining exposure,” said Steve. “Triathlon is a very demanding sport and the body definitely takes a beating. Although it’s nice to see the progression of young kids who do triathlons. Before you used to be a swimmer or a biker or a runner; now, the new breed of triathletes are good in all three disciplines. It’s gonna be here for a while.”

With advice for the newcomers, Steve gave three: Get clearance from the doctor. Be careful of doing too much too soon. And, if you want to get faster, do interval training on all three disciplines.

The 8080 deadline for registration is tomorrow. Visit the Facebook page now and see you in San Remigio on the 8th.

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.”

In triathlon, Aya finds Himaya

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Michelle Himaya “Aya” Garcia Shlachter reads her full name. In English, himaya means “glory and joy.”

Aya is a U.S.-schooled architect who does consultancy work for clients in Hong Kong and the U.S. She’s an entrepreneur who owns the thriving chocolate and coffee shop of six outlets, Tablea. She’s a mother of Ana, 6, and Ari, 3. Her husband is Larry Shlachter, who’s finished three New York City Marathons.

Aya is a multi-tasker. Aya is a multi-sport athlete.

Two Sundays ago, she finished what I consider one of the most fearsome of outdoor gimmicks: the XTERRA Off-Road Triathlon. Consider this: of the 219 who finished the full triathlon (1.5K swim, 36K bike and 10K run), only 21 were women.

Aya was one of the brave girls. “Several people discouraged me from joining since the bike course was extremely tough and technical,” Aya said. “They were concerned about my safety since I have very poor bike handling skills. I chose to ignore them and face the challenge of the bike course instead of backing down.”

During this International Women’s Month, Aya shows the boys that they’re not the only athletic type. Last year, Aya completed the Cobra Ironman 70.3 Ironman race. Before that, she completed the Tabuelan 111 event. Prior to that, she swam 6 kms. in the Olango Challenge.

Back to Xterra, here’s Aya’s experience:

“Swim: I love swimming and I am most comfortable in the water. The first 500 meters was a warm up and easy swim for me. The rest of the distance, I did some swim intervals. Slow easy pace for 3 minutes followed by 20 fast strokes.  That way, I was able to conserve energy for the bike and run portions.

“Bike: The bike portion was the most challenging since I had only been mountain biking for 2 months prior to Xterra. My bike handling skills are a bit challenged. My goal for the bike portion was to finish injury-free without getting cut-off. I had targeted to finish 1 loop in 2 hours; the problem was, I had no idea how long one loop would take since I had not finished one loop during training sessions. On the first loop, at 1:40 I saw Noy Jopson and he told me that I was making good time and that I was close to making the first loop in less than 2 hours. Noy gave me the boost and self confidence that I badly needed. I made it to the transition area 30 mins before cut off.  After the bike portion was completed, I knew I was going to finish the race.

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“Run: The run was the most fun for me since I knew I was going to finish the race at that point. The run was challenging since it was extremely hot and there were lots of uphills and steep downhills with sharp corals. The water stations were great! I made sure I took ice baths along the way to keep my body temperature cool. I tried to pace myself by doing a 6 minute run followed by a 30 second walk. I walked most of the steep uphills and ran as fast as I could on the downhills and flats to compensate for lost time during the uphill walking.  There were a lot of children during the run course giving me high fives along the way; the kids were very helpful in keeping my spirits high. I was surprised by my run time of 1:19!”

Why not Pilates or Zumba? “Triathlon allows me to go places that I normally would not visit,” she said. “I enjoy the company of fellow triathletes. I have met some very cool and interesting people along the way. I love racing!”

Aya’s 2013 calendar? She plans a full marathon, a few “more Xterra races” and, here’s the ultimate: she will go for the Timex 226! (That’s a 3.8K swim, 180K bike and 42K run.) If that’s not enough, she already has booked Nov. 2014 for a full Ironman race in Arizona.

Aya’s mantra: “I just keep telling myself not to stop no matter how hard it gets because when it is over I know I will feel great. Pride always overcomes any kind of temporary discomfort.”

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One of Aya’s close triathlon buddy is Sen. Pia Cayetano, who invited her in this event last month:

“Mr. Ugo 37K Sky Run was a trail run (in Itogon Benguet province) where the first 18k were all uphills until we reached the Mt. Ugo Summit, then 18k back downhills It was a very tough and mentally-challenging course. It took me 10 hours. There was a cut off time of 8:30 hours and, though I did not make the time, I still finished the race. Fifty meters before the finish line, my friends (Sen Pia, Belle, Che, Noel) were hiding behind a big rock. They emerged from the big rock and surprised me with my own finish line. They brought me fruits and water. We were all in tears,” said Aya.

“What I lack in ability and skill, I compensate for in will-power. Before I joined the Mt. Ugo 37 k trail run, I had several doubts about finishing the race. I had just recovered from a severe hamstring injury. A few days before Mt. Ugo, a friend of mine gave me a quote from Mother Teresa: ‘Focus on small things with great love.’ This quote stuck in my mind. To finish any race, one must just enjoy the experience one step, one mile at a time with great love!”

‘Mind more important than talent’

Yuan, IronKids first place

Sport is physical. In basketball, you pass, dribble and alley-hoop. In badminton, you lob, smash, serve. Running involves jumping forward, left leg after right leg, repeated 1,111 times. In gymnastics, it’s a different set of twisting: arms bent backwards as the neck curls and legs spread into a split.

Sport = Muscles. But when I asked proud mom to triathletes Justin and Yuan Chiongbian for the most important attribute in an athlete, her reply surprised me: “Mental strength is, for me, the most important trait of an athlete. Talent is only 2nd.”

Wow. This wasn’t the first time I heard this quotation from Millette, who is the only Cebuana to join the Boston Marathon, finishing the world’s most prestigious footrace in 2011. “The marathon is 90 percent mental,” said Millette, in a speech a few years back.

Justin Chiongbian (from Facebook)

Via email, I interviewed Millette. Her boys, Justin and Yuan, having competed in one of the world’s fastest growing sports — triathlon — only last March, have won their respective age-groups. They’ll compete in Singapore next weekend.

How important are the parents? I asked the wife of Frederic Chiongbian. How do you motivate your kids?

Millette’s answer: “Justin and Yuan have become aware of our active lifestyle since they were tots. This parental and environmental influence to train, compete and the love of sports is the foundation.

“An invitation to a Tri clinic in Plantation Bay Resort and the recruit by TRAP brought on to these boys the competitiveness and the more serious matters to their attention. I saw no reason not to support this because of their expressed commitment.

“Since both train together, each other’s presence and performance is each other’s stimulus and motivating factor. Both are intrinsically motivated.

“Rewards and prizes are not emphasized to catalyze them to attain goals. Rather, the small increments of success in the track, pool or race splits is what motivates both the most. ‘Only the fastest wins!’ is a favorite phrase for both.”

The aforementioned lines are important. They reveal several lessons. One, if the parents are active and competitive… then, possibly, so will the children. Two, “sibling harmony” instead of “sibling rivalry.”

Aged 13 (Justin) and 11 (Yuan), it’s good that they’re two years apart — which means they don’t compete against each other. They practice together, pushing each other to swim, bike, run faster.

And, the words I relish best… “rewards and prizes are not emphasized… to attain goals.” Dear parents: This is essential.

TIPS. I asked Millette for parenting tips. She offered plenty…

ON TRAINING: A. Be consistent & regular on training schedules afforded and allowed. Journal in the progress of your athlete. (So if one’s sked can warrant a 4x weekly swim, 3x weekly run and bike then these should be done week per week).

B. Be sensitive to the mental, psychological & emotional demands of the athlete. (If your athlete often cries when training, openly talk about it and get to the root of his emotions. Mental strength is for me the most important trait of an athlete, talent is only 2nd).

C. Carefully study and consider the demands of the race event the athlete will be competing in. If your athlete is a newbie in the sport, joining smaller but well-organized events gives your athlete a positive experience. On the other hand, too big an event can overwhelm your athlete–getting lost and getting confused with signs on the course and changing kits rules may leave your athlete undesirous to join another race.

D. Suggest to help manage the student-athlete’s time. One has to understand the downtime of the sport. Training hard can leave your athlete too exhausted to do schoolwork. (Manage your athlete’s time by prioritizing studies–tackle home works before training time, study everyday and be ready for unscheduled exams, never wait for deadlines.)

E. Be knowledgeable on the sport in general. Read about the sport as much as you can.

ON NUTRITION: Healthy, natural or unprocessed and, enough.

ON RECOVERY: 7-10hrs of sleep and living in a clean, peaceful yet jovial atmosphere.

Justin and Yuan Chiongbian

Next Saturday, on Sept. 29, after the dust from this weekend’s Formula One race has settled, one prominent Cebuano family will fly to the Lion City to join an event: The Singapore Triathlon 2012 National Championships. Justin and Yuan Chiongbian, two of the country’s most promising young triathletes, will compete in Singapore.

Justin, 13, and Yuan, 11, won 2nd and 1st place, respectively, at last month’s Alaska Ironkids event at Shangri-La.

How did the brothers first try Tri? (As a backgrounder, both parents are sports devotees: dad Frederic is a finisher of the Singapore and Hong Kong marathons, plus an avid golfer; mom Millette is a fast and famous runner, joining last year’s Boston Marathon.)

Millette answered: “Tri came when both seriously began to compete in their chosen sports – Justin was into running since 6 and Yuan into swimming since 3. Looking long term, the reason is because of the higher incidence of overuse injuries specializing in a sport. Also, a multi-sport athlete has a stronger cardio capacity and has a better proportioned physique. We took awhile to decide to get them into road biking because of road conditions and safety.”

In their first triathlon race, exactly six months ago–last March 18–at the 1st Talisay Age Group Triathlon, guess what ranking the Chiongbian siblings got? First place and first place.

Yuan Chiongbian (from Facebook)

Then, in March 31 at the Plantation Bay Resort and Spa for the National Age Group Triathlon (NAGT), it was here when the Philippine Tri coach, Melvin Fausto, saw with his own eyes the potential of the brothers.

“Coach Melvin immediately phoned TRAP that he has got recruits from Cebu and said he’s never seen anyone who runs as stable like Justin. Yuan on the other hand is naturally talented and fast. Although coach Melvin said that there are a lot of talents in the 13-15 age category nationwide,” said Millette.

At Plantation Bay, Yuan won first and Justin, second place (in their respective age-group categories).

Next, in Alabang last April for the Century Tuna NAGT, Yuan once again won first and Justin, in his category, 4th place. The following month for the first international race in Subic, the Chiongbian brothers both placed a respectable 10th place.

All these culminated with the August 4, 2012 race in Mactan that was the biggest sporting event Cebu has hosted: the Cobra Energy Drink Ironman 70.3. Yuan: first; Justin: second.

Triathlon is tough. It’s not only cycling or running or swimming but all three. It’s time-consuming. It’s exhausting, physically and mentally.

How, I asked, do your kids cope with the strenuous training? How do you “push” and motivate them?

Millette’s reply: “Through principles of Graduality, Overcompensation; Knowledge on healthy food and the discipline to rest and recover. Both take naps in school after lunch when necessary…

“The ‘pushing’ part is when the boys have to sleep at a certain time to meet their nightly or mid-day sleep quota. I am also there if they needed to be spirited with my presence or my high-fives. A magic phrase I yell that works effectively when they’re getting tired is ‘happy thoughts’.

“Although the basic core to achieve the balance I believe is that when an athlete wants it, there is no need to push it. What develops then is the product, passion and when an athlete becomes passionate, the athlete attains success.

“Justin and Yuan are both at a point wherein their ambitious drive is what pushes them every training time. They’re connectedly focus.. checking their splits in the track, pool or on the trainer. In addition, I also believe that sport knowledge and, to be thoroughly acquainted and be experienced with training/racing, perpetuates the holistic success cycle of an athlete.

“Further, the emotional, mental and psychological strengths should be developed to keep the athlete balanced and in harmonious order with the physiological aspect. Discipline and character are the values inherent to success according to Fr. Manny.”

London’s Olympics and Cebu’s Ironman

Only nine days remain before the Ironman 70.3 begins at the Shangri-La Mactan Resort. Cebu has hosted plenty of big-time sporting events before. Last year’s Davis Cup tennis events against Japan and Taiwan were huge. So have been the ALA Promotions-organized boxing fights. I recall watching Dennis Rodman slamming a dunk in Mandaue. We struck gold in Dancesport during the SEA Games of 2005. And last week, the World Eskrima Kali Arnis championships were held at the CICC.

But there’s never been as much excitement as the August 5, 2012 swim-bike-run spectacle. Over 1,700 triathletes—including Jenson Button and his sexy supermodel girlfriend, Jessica Michibata—are landing in the shores of Mactan next weekend. In swimming pools all over Cebu—from Casino Español to Abellana to Holiday Gym—the waves are splashing with freestyle strokes. Everyone’s practicing.

Yesterday, together with Neil Montesclaros, I biked 72 kms. from Consolacion to Catmon. Along the route, dozens of cyclists—on a Wednesday—are cramming their pedaling rotations.

Runners? Wake up at 5:15 A.M. and you’ll encounter sweaty, sleeveless-wearing athletes pounding our newly-asphalted streets.

Why does this Ironman have an accompanying “70.3” number? That’s because the race totals 70.3 miles. In our usual kilometer readings, that’s 1.9 + 90 + 21. That’s a swim of 1.9 kms., a 90K bike ride and a half-marathon run.

Cebu awaits—and welcomes—our triathlete visitors.

DONDI. Gordon Alan “Dondi” Joseph, my fellow Rotarian from the RC Cebu West and a top civic leader (he’s the president of the Cebu Business Club), is now in London, England.

“Not really to watch, John!” was his reply when I asked if he was there to witness the Olympic Games. Dondi, whose brother, Mark Joseph, is the head of Philippine swimming, emailed me yesterday a few observations…

“There is a palpable buzz in the air and while many Londoners with their usual aplomb consider the Games a a bit of a bother, the city is gleaming, literally and figuratively. Signs of last-minute preparations are everywhere as Olympic-related event venues are being spruced up and constructed.

“The weather is beautiful with temperatures ranging from 17 to 31 with only the sun to greet you. People are in shorts and T-shirts and around parks, large and small. All have people sunbathing in Olympic-marked sun chairs.

“I didn’t plan to get involved in any event but am now determined to try and watch the torch along its route to the stadium. It’s simply contagious and I want to be part of the greatest show on earth!

“Tickets to the Opening are over 5000usd. Yup 5,000. Too rich for me. But everything else is going on and there are concerts galore! This is just fantastic!!!

“And by the way, with the end of the rains and the entry of the beautiful sun, the skirts are really shorter! Beautiful… ;-)”

PHL OLYMPICS. What time is the Opening Ceremony? It will be (Philippine time) two days from now… at 4:30 A.M. on Saturday. It is expected to be shown on both Solar Sports and Star Sports.

With our Philippine delegation, did you know that our 11 Olympians will be the smallest contingent we’ve sent—if my research is correct—in 80 years (during the 1932 Los Angeles Games).

Back in 1924, we were the first Southeast Asian country to join the Olympics. Excluding the 1980 Olympics (when we boycotted Moscow), we have never missed participating in the Summer Games. Thus far, we’ve accumulated two silver medals and seven bronze medals. Of these nine medals, we won five in boxing and two apiece in athletics and swimming.

Our last medal? It was Onyok Velasco’s silver in Atlanta, 1996. Gold? Nah. Even if there’s a P5 million bounty (Sports Incentive Act, RA 9064) offered by the government, there are no takers. Or, rather, no one’s good enough to take gold.

And here’s one more trivia: After Mongolia won their first gold medal in 2008, we now hold the infamous record as the nation with the most medals… but no gold medal.

Talisay City is fast becoming a sports hub

This weekend—March 23 to 25—is one of the year’s busiest in sports.

Last night, we had the Alex John Banal vs. Raul Hidalgo quarrel. Held at the Waterfront Hotel and Casino in Lahug, that was the 13th edition of Pinoy Pride. Coming off the embarrassing Boom-Boom and Gernaro Garcia debacle, I’m sure the ALA Promotions team couldn’t wait for this Saturday night. A successful, full-packed crowd will erase the Tagbilaran nightmare.

At the same time yesterday evening, if you crossed the Marcelo Fernan Bridge and headed for the Hoops Dome in Lapu-Lapu City, you’d enter a boisterous crowd. It’s the Commissioner’s Cup tip-off between Talk ‘N Text and Rain or Shine. What makes this exciting is this: it’s no exhibition contest—but a crucial, bearing PBA game that happens prior to the playoffs. That’s boxing and basketball. Cebu vs. Mexico. Jimmy Alapag vs. Gabe Norwood.

This morning? It’s one of the most anticipated of road-running races this 2012: the Globe Run For Home. Did you know that Globe Telecom cancelled their annual Manila event to hold it right here, this morning? Yes. That’s 5,000-plus runners that will flood the streets from CICC to the SRP. That’s running.

Chess? Sure. Over the weekend is the 1st Cebu Age Group Challenge—a preliminary event whose winners will proceed to the Visayas championships in Kalibo, Aklan. After the world-record activity that involved over 43,000 children, this event signals a continuation of the sport of chess. Good move.

In football, there’s a pause in the competition for the 14th Aboitiz Cup to give way to the school where many of the Aboitizes studied at: Cebu International School. The event is the CIS Friendship Cup and, with children as young as four years old participating, a total of 108 teams are represented. That’s football. (And we’re not even talking about the contest, as written by Mike Limpag yesterday, called the “CFA Elections.”)

Tennis? There “was” supposed to have been a mega-event. At the Plantation Bay Resort and Spa, today would have been the Cebu vs. Sarawak tennis challenge called the Lapu-Lapu Cup. Sarawak is one of the major cities of Malaysia and two of their country’s top juniors—coming from Sarawak—were supposed to be in Cebu this weekend. But last week, one of their players got sick. And you need two for doubles, right? Jacob Lagman, our Cebu No.1, was ready. So was Johnny Arcilla. And, for doubles, the tandem of RJ Abarquez and Kennex Abadia. Plantation Bay’s Efren Belarmino prepared his clay-surfaced tennis court. But it wasn’t meant to be.

Which brings us to… Talisay. After last weekend’s XTERRA in Liloan, the show continues this morning for the 1st Talisay Triathlon Race. Over 100 swimmers-bikers-runners are participating in this race that features a 1-km. swim, a 30K bike ride and a 7.5K run. If my little research is correct, the bike route will take the cyclists inside the SRP. Interesting because the SRP is also closed for the Globe Run. The two events are not expected to merge, though, because one will occupy the Cebu City side and the other will, of course, pass through their own boundary.

Talisay is becoming a sporting destination. This is good. As we know, the Gullas family is comprised of sports fanatics. From Eddigul to Dodong to Didi to Jiji to Samsam to Johnvic, the Gullases are all sports lovers. They play basketball, tennis, golf, badminton—name a sport and they like it, play it, support it.

Which brings me back to Talisay. Much like the cities of Cebu and Lapu-Lapu (and now, Liloan, with the XTERRA), the city of Talisay is getting sports-crazy. Apart from this morning’s triathlon, there’s the 5th Governor’s Cup Horse Show and Competition this weekend. The country’s best cowboys are in town.

What’s more, there’s the Takas sa Talisay All-Women Beach Volleyball Invitational. One city, one weekend, three sports.

XTERRA experience 2: MTB and trail run

(Photo by Reynan Opada)

MTB stands for mountain-bike. It’s that vehicle on two rugged tires with a flat handlebar that we used to maneuver the treacherous landscape of Liloan during the XTERRA last Sunday.

After my “waterloo” (the water, open-sea swim) was done, it was off to the 35-km. MTB ride. I loved it. You’re outdoors. You climb rocks and descend on slippery sand. You pedal amidst thick grass and brake once a giant boulder glares at you. After my 14:39 swim time, my bike ride was 2 hours, 44 minutes. Not fast; conservative. Early on my first of two loops, my three CO2 bottles fell. Had I gotten a flat tire… Oh, no.

(Photo by Icky Salazar)

Thank, God, that didn’t happen. The one occurrence that I also avoided did not transpire: meeting an accident. With such a technical and scary bike route—the architect of whom was Architect Miguel Flores—not getting battered or wounded was the goal. Another “Thank you, Lord” moment, I only fell once with a minor hip bruise.

If you’re a MTB’er and didn’t join XTERRA, you ought to drive to Liloan soon and try the experience. We passed a small opening in-between two bahay-kubos after ascending a steep climb. We descended (I walked) the famous Bagacay Point Lighthouse that’s now, according to Gov. Gwen Garcia, been renamed “graveyard” instead of “parola.”

Porter Marina? Beautiful. We entered the enclave surrounded by yachts and pedaled to the tip where we circled the gazebo. The Gatorade station awaited us. Guess who I saw there? A Cebuano whom I admire the most, Dr. Wyben Briones. He helped with his team from the All-terrain Medical Relief Org (AMRO).

(Photo by Dr. Wyben Briones)

The cheerers? I’ve joined numerous marathons and I’ve never witnessed as many loud voices—especially children—than four mornings ago. Because you bike on narrow paths, the residents troop out to watch and cheer. In the schools that we passed, the elementary girls and boys shouted, “YOU CAN DO IT!” Well-orchestrated by Mayor Duke, the Liloan residents provided extra boost to fuel our tired legs.

Not only were the spectators nice but the pros were, too. Before Ben Allen zoomed past me, he signaled, “Will pass through the right!” As he—and the other pros—would zip through, they never failed to say, “Thank you” after the pass. Amazing. This is the beauty of this sport. You not only get to compete right beside the world’s elite—but they’re courteous and respectful.

(Photo by Astrid Concepcion)

RUN. Since I joined the Lite, my run was 5K. After three hours of swimming and biking, the body gets weary. Still, not to have drowned nor gotten injured (yes!), the run was extra fun. I clocked 38 minutes. We zigzagged through off-road ground and hopped towards the beach. We ran beside the Liloan shoreline and, upon reaching the tip, had to wade through knee-deep waters for over 100 meters. I thought this was a swim-bike-run triathlon… Are they adding a swim as the 4th and final obstacle? Ha-ha.

(Photo by Icky Salazar)

After 3 hours and 36 minutes, with Jasmin, Jana and my mom Allen waiting at the finish, I crossed that line with arms raised high. Yes!

NOTE: I got a phone call past 4 P.M. when I reached home. It was Caecent Magsumbol of The Freeman. Did I hear the news? she asked. Oh, no. Not a terrible accident on a participant, I thought. I was in 2nd place! No way, I said. No way. In my 40 – 44 age bracket (Lite), I placed No. 2 behind Jun Barcenas. Wow, hard to believe! (Before you get too excited: excluding Goyo Larrazabal, who didn’t show up, we were only seven in the age group. Still, the trophy looks good!)

BEN ALLEN STORY. Two days before race day, Ralph Sios-e and I visited Amara for a practice swim. As we finished changing and were about to leave, a man approached us. Can I hitch a ride? he asked. He was alone and had no vehicle ride back to the city. Sure, we said. We didn’t know him but he needed help. But just as we were packing our things, Jacs Jacalan drove by. He, Tenggoy Colmenares and Jomer Lim were ready to go… and so he rode with them instead.

At the Carbo-loading Party the night after, Jacs tells me: remember that guy who rode with us? His name is Ben Allen. He was Xterra champion in Guam the week before. Simple, ordinary-looking fellow but he beat all the top-rated elite pros. We saw Ben later that night at CICC and, like he was when we first met him, he was relaxed and had none of that “celebrity air” found in others. It turns out, Ben was a P.E. teacher in Australia and had no sponsors. He joined and needed to win to earn enough money to compete!

The next morning, Ben Allen obliterated the field—winning in 2:30. His is an example of this adage: Nice guys finish first.

XTERRA experience: Surviving the swim…

(Photos by Dr. Wyben Briones)

Let me begin with the party. Saturday night at the CICC. Gov. Gwen Garcia knows how to celebrate and make the Welcome Dinner… XTERRA-special. As dozens of foreign triathletes arrived, they were accorded the famous “Cebuano hospitality.”

Dancers wowed the audience. Actors Richard Guttierez and Jericho Rosales added glitter to the ballroom. Pasta overflowed. I got to meet the energetic drive behind Liloan, Mayor Duke Frasco. Then, organizer Fred Uytengsu, Jr. beamed with pride as he proclaimed, “I’m happy to bring XTERRA to my hometown of Cebu!”

XTERRA is one of the few events where more participants come from out-of-town than from Cebu. And, judging from their faces that night, the visitors were awed: nowhere are they accorded as dazzling a Welcome Party as in Cebu.

RACE DAY. I woke up at 3:50 A.M. After drinking coffee and munching on chicken sandwich, I donned my one-piece Speedo suit—my solitary attire that morning.

At 5:15, Jasmin, Jana and I were off. As soon as we entered Amara, the usually-serene subdivision reverberated with energy. “Boom-Boom Pow” pulsated from the speakers. Colorful tents littered the marina. Parking was full. I met Gianluca and Matteo Giudicelli and wished them good luck.

It was body-marking time. And no less than Boying Rodriguez, the man responsible for bringing Xterra to our shores, marked “425” on my left arm and right leg.

Kisses and hugs between triathletes and family members ensued. Birthday boy Rio de la Cruz’s hair further electrified the crowd. Photos, ready for FB, were snapped. Gov. Gwen arrived. Eddie and Annabelle Guttierez were next. It was panic time. By 6:40, nobody but the participants would be allowed inside the starting area.

Tenggoy Colmenares helped strap three GU gels in my bike. We took a 5-minute warm-up swim to acclimatize our bodies. Then, as a remote-controlled helicopter circled the marina and the emcee Jaime Garchitorena counted down, “3… 2… 1!” the siren blared as the triathletes were off…

SWIM. Luckily, the sea was calm; but the splashes and bumping of bodies were choppy. They would encircle the rectangle (buoys) twice to complete 1.5 kms.

Our group? About 60 of us—XTERRA Lite competitors—waited for an hour. (My mom Allen sneaked in to give his son a hug!) Then, as swimmer after swimmer emerged, it was our turn.

At 8 A.M., we swam. I had always been anxious about open-sea swimming. An athlete on land, I was not accustomed to the dangers of the ocean. I reminded myself: relax. Yet, I couldn’t relax. Swimming near the rope and buoys, that was where the most traffic was located. Bad move. I had to stop, tread, pedal again. I got kicked. I kicked. Had to overtake; was overtaken. All you could visualize were bubbles and splashes. The sand underneath was 10, 15 feet deep!

Mentally, I told myself to target one buoy at a time. The finish was still far and if you think too far ahead, more pressure sets in. One white buoy at a time.

I struggled. It wasn’t until halfway through our 500-meter distance when the swimmers had spread out that I felt more comfortable. Still, the heart rate was 100 percent max and all you can tell yourself was, “Let’s get this over with!”

Finally, after what seemed like 30 minutes (I finished with an actual time of 14:39; that includes the transition time from swim to bike), I reached the shore. Thank you, Lord! (Compare my swim time to former Olympiad Guy Concepcion – the winner of our Lite swim leg who finished under six minutes!)

I had always told myself that after the swim, my race was done—I can completely enjoy myself. Which was true…

(These photos by Nimrod Quiñones)

BIKE. I love mountain-biking. Given Cebu’s mountainous terrain, it’s one of the most exhilarating activities. And that’s how my 35-km. ride transpired. I loved it. Many times I’d whisper, “Thank you, Lord!” for the fresh air and mountains.

In the first 17.5-K loop, I biked with Matteo Giudicelli and his group. It was good. Why? Everybody knows Matteo. And so, with hundreds of spectators lining the inner, narrow roads of Liloan, they all cheered us on!

One funny moment: a spectator shouted, pointing at me from afar, “Naa si Richard Guttierez! Si Richard!” Then, realizing I was not, “Ay, dili man diay si Richard!”

My goal was not to get injured or have a flat tire. The scary part? I lost my three CO2 bottles—to help fix a flat tire. (More on the bike and run this Thursday.)

Extra! XTERRA! Cebu hosts the off-road TRI

As one of the hundreds of participants of this weekend’s Vaseline Men XTERRA Off-Road Triathlon Series, here are some points…

RACE PACKS. Within the first hour when the race kits were released last Friday, I made sure to visit the Holiday Spa. After paying P3,800 to register, you’re expected to receive plenty of freebies. True enough, this international event did not disappoint. A race cap, running belt, two GU gels, a temporary tattoo, plus a pair of 2XU compression socks were inside the bag. T-shirt? Not yet. Those will be given at the finish line. Courtesy of the mayor, Titay’s rosquillos and goodies were part of the giveaways.

The one that interested me most was the wrist I.D. After they give you the pack (Igi Maximo and I got our kits together), they put a neon-colored (yellow) race band on your wrist that can’t be removed (unless you cut it off after the event). Unlike race bibs for running that are easily transferrable, the non-removable wristband ensures that nobody else but “John Pages” uses my kit. Wise! Also, you get to sleep and dine with your race band for a couple of nights – adding to the excitement.

IRONMAN. Arland Macasieb is often described as the country’s Ironman. The first Filipino to cross the finish line at the 2011 Ironman 70.3, Arland has won gold in numerous events. Two nights ago at Justin Uy’s J Centre Mall, Arland gave a talk on triathlon. What sets Arland apart from any other triathlete-teacher is that he’s armed with a degree in Exercise Physiology. This means he speaks not only from first-hand experience but also with scientific backing. Given his packed schedule, it was commendable for Arland to share his time with the Cebuanos. Kudos to organizers Jerome Mil, Benjoe Gimenez and Great Adventures and Concepts @ Work.

THE BRICK. Tonight is the grand opening of the business of a top sportsman. Noy Jopson is formally opening his multi-sport business that caters to runners, bikers, swimmers. Visit The Brick at the lower level (beside Tablea) of J Centre Mall.

GOV. GWEN. Volleyball, horse-back riding, and airsoft have been supported, among others, by Gov. Gwen Garcia and the Provincial Government. Add “triathlon” to the list this 2012 as the governor supports XTERRA and Ironman 70.3. Last night at the CICC, after our race briefing at 6 P.M., she hosted a carbo-loading party for the participants.

SWIM. On a personal note… I’ve been biking since I was eight years old. I’ve been running since my elementary school-days. So biking and running come naturally. Swimming? No, no. It’s the one obstacle that has disallowed me from joining the Ironman 70.3. Thanks to the Lite version of the XTERRA (swim is only 500 meters instead of 1.5 kms.), I’m joining the race — as you read this today.

Fear? Sure. Last month, I accompanied Jacs Jacalan, Tenggoy Colmenares and Joseph Miller for a dip in Shangri-La. Bad timing for me that day, the waves were tall. No problem for my triathlete-companions, but major concern for me. I struggled. Held on the buoys and rope every five meters. It was excruciating; a far negative experience compared to the enjoyable mountain-biking or running.

But you know what I realized? Patience. While I’ve been running and biking for three decades now, my swimming habit only started two months ago. So I shouldn’t be overly optimistic—or put myself down if I can’t swim like a fish. This morning, I’ve lowered my expectations: will swim slow and easy. I’ll hold on the buoys and rope as often as my mind says so. It doesn’t matter if I finish late. What matters is I relieve the unnecessary pressure on myself. Relax. That’s another reminder.

Two mornings ago, I had a practice swim with top triathlete Ralph Sios-e at Amara. The waters were semi-rough. They weren’t as smooth as a lake. (We even saw a foot-long sea snake!) Still, being an ignorant, non-swimmer, this I realized: you float on open sea water. Little effort is needed to stay afloat. Said Ralph: “It will take more energy to drown that to float.”

Mayor Duke Frasco: ‘Liloan, sports hub’

While Lapu-Lapu City organized the Davis Cup tennis “Battle Of Mactan” and Mandaue City played hosts to PBA games, Dennis Rodman, horse-back riding contests and Cebu City has Guinness World Records in dancesport and chess, another Cebu locality is carving its name in sports: Liloan.

“I think Liloan is prime to be the sports tourism capitol of Cebu,” said Liloan Mayor Vincent Franco “Duke” Frasco. “We have the beaches for water sports and possibly, wake-boarding; bike trails for the mountain-bike enthusiasts, and trail runs for international and huge events, like XTERRA Championships.”

Mayor Duke is right. If we talk of “outdoor and adventure sports,” no city or municipality in Cebu today boasts of capturing that niche or segment.

Water sports? Check. Wake-boarding? Check. This was popularized nationwide by Camarines Sur but, with the loss of the Ironman 70.3 from Camsur, how about Cebu—maybe in Liloan’s Silot Bay—building a wake-boarding facility? Mountain-biking? Check. Twice, I’ve trekked the MTB route of Xterra and it’s challenging and beautiful. Above the hills near Amara, you have the encompassing view of the sea and the mountains. Trail running? Check. The Columbia Trail Run, held last month in Liloan, has received laudable reviews. I saw a video produced by one of the participants, Dr. James Guardiario, and the Trail Run in Liloan was breathtaking.

“Lilo-an has the complete package,” said race organizer Ralph Pilapil. “It’s coastal and it is also near a mountain, which has a very scenic view.” I agree. “Liloan Sports” has the potential to be a huge tourism booster because the man at the helm of this 1st class municipality is, himself, a first-class athlete.

I spoke to Duke two days ago and he’s an avid sportsman. He plays golf and is a fan of Rory Mcilroy. He lifts weights thrice weekly. His favorite? Running. “I’ve finished two 21Ks,” said the mayor. “The Cebu Marathon and the Operation Smile Run.” The 42K? Sure. Liloan’s mayor has enlisted himself in the online lottery for this November’s New York City Marathon. “Last year, I also joined the lottery but did not make it. I hope to enter this time and finish my first full marathon.”

Duke ran for public office as mayor in 2007 but he’s been running on the road since 1998, in high school. “I love to run. It’s not only a great way to stay fit and keep healthy,” he said, “but it helps me relieve tension and stress acquired from a demanding schedule and job.” Running helps the mayor run Liloan.

With this weekend and the XTERRA Championships, Mayor Duke is not only busy with all the preparations—he’s also busy preparing, physically. “Like last year’s XTERRA, I’m joining the Relay. Our team, Abante Liloan, will have Keith Ocampo as swimmer and my cousin, Aljew Frasco, as the biker. I’ll do the 10K run. My target is to finish the run in 53 minutes. Last year, our team placed 3rd. Let’s see this Sunday…”

XTERRA is lucky to be held amidst the rugged terrain of Liloan. Being the off-road version of the triathlon, Liloan’s clear waters plus rocky and tough landscape are a perfect mix. Liloan, obviously, is also fortunate for having been chosen by Fred Uytengsu, Jr., race director Guy Concepcion and their Sunrise Events team for this international meet.

“XTERRA is as big to Liloan and to me as it is to the individual participants coming from all over the world,” said the mayor. “It’s an opportunity for us to showcase our beautiful town and the hospitality of our people.”

Plus, of course, it helps that the major backer not only of XTERRA but also of the bigger triathlon event, the Cobra Ironman 70.3 (this August 5), happens to be the Provincial Government, headed by Gov. Gwen Garcia—the mother-in-law of Mayor Duke Frasco.

With all these, Liloan will succeed in sports. It’s going the “XTERRA-mile.”

XTERRA: the swim-bike-run adventure

This 2012, the “Year Of The Water Dragon,” Cebu will host two major triathlon events: the Ironman 70.3 in Mactan and the XTERRA Off-Road Triathlon. While the Ironman 70.3 — a major loss for Camarines Sur — is still this August 5, the XTERRA is happening on March 18. That’s seven mornings from today.

What’s XTERRA? It’s off-road. It’s mountain-biking instead of the road bike. It’s a trail run. It’s more adventure than speed. And, best of all, it’s happening here, at one of the most scenic real-estate projects of our island, where the sea and sun beckon for free: the Amara residential community in Liloan.

I’m joining. A mountain-bike fanatic, how can I not? While others travel to distant locations to participate, the Cebuanos are lucky that this event of Fred Uytengsu, Jr. is being organized in his home place of Sugbu.

The XTERRA Lite. That’s the event I’m joining. Unlike the full XTERRA Triathlon with a 1.5-km. swim, a 35K bike and a 10K run, the Lite version only has a 500 meter swim. The bike distance is the same while the run is cut to 5K.

Why the Lite? I have zero background in open-sea swimming. The only time I tried the Tri was a couple of years back in the “Pipti-Pipti” race and Joel Garganera and myself were holding on the buoys and rope (and to our lives!) in the short 300-meter swim. There are 49 of us joining the Lite. For the full version, 171 have confirmed.

This is not all. There’s also the XTERRA Trail Run. This happens this Friday, the day before the triathlon. Only 69 have registered so far and, Cebu being such a huge running haven, I’m surprised that hundreds haven’t enlisted. The Trail Run, with choices of 5K, 10K or 21K, is all-adventure. You’ll climb short hills, jog on grass, step over boulders and bask in the terrain of the country’s newest trail run playground called Liloan. Registration is still open.

Yesterday, thanks to Tyrone Tan, who owns a beautiful, overlooking-the-sea property in Amara, several of us congregated at 6 A.M. to do a simulation run. We swam. (Well, they did; I swam-and-stopped, pausing often to “acclimatize.”) We biked the full two loops. While biking, I high-fived a child/spectator and fell on hard cement. (My butt is still sore as I sit typing this.) We also did a short run. Igi Maximo, Bernard Palermo, Dodong Sulatre, Tenggoy Colmenares, Meyrick Jacalan, Joseph Miller and several more joined. Regan King, Niño Surban and another group also did the bike trek.

C. Aldeguer launches Fish18 Sport + Vellum

Dan Brown will arrive in Cebu. No, he’s not that Dan Brown, the author of The Da Vinci Code. He’s a triathlete. And, no, he’s no ordinary biker, runner, swimmer. He’s a 15-time Ironman finisher. He placed 8th in the Hawaii Ultra Man Championships — an unbearably strenuous race involving a 10K swim, a 421K bike and an 84K run. He’s also the current national coach of the Philippine Triathlon team.

Mr. Brown will visit Cebu on Thursday to update this soon-to-be “triathlon capital” (with the XTERRA and Ironman 70.3 landing in this island) and to unveil a partnership that will involve Chris Aldeguer and his newly-relaunched brand: Vellum bikes.

What’s Vellum? “Vellum is a special kind of paper,” Chris Aldeguer said. “We thought the name was appropriate because our bikes are mainly made of carbon fiber and, just like paper, this material is very light in weight.  We also liked how it sounded. Fast and Aggressive.”

With his return to competitive triathlon, Chris also formed Fish18 Sport. “Years ago, I planned to form a competitive Triathlon Team if and when I decided to go back to racing,” Chris said. “I wanted to gather a group of Triathletes that share the same philosophy and approach. That philosophy is to Race. To Compete. I believe it brings the best out of each other during Training and Racing. So, last December, with the help of Michael Flores, my partner in Vellum, we formed the team; sponsored by and called Fish18 Sport with Vellum, K-Swiss and GU as major sponsors.”

The six members: Chris Aldeguer, Leo Oracion, Eugene Sanchez, Michael Flores, Franz Baguio and Gerrie Calinawan.

“The selection process was easy,” said Chris. “Leo Oracion needs no introduction. Other than being the first Filipino to climb Mt. Everest, he has won a lot of Triathlon Races and competed several times internationally. Though he is identified with climbing Everest, and being an Adventure Racer, Leo is a successful Elite Triathlete.

“Eugene Sanchez has been doing Triathlons for nearly 12 years. He is very competitive and very accomplished. He is known to be the King of Pain.

“Michael Flores, a VIP of Cebu Cycling, is probably the top cyclist of the Team. He brings in the energy and intensity during our Training Rides and is making a comeback to Triathlon. He is also the Team Manager.

“Franz Baguio is an up and coming Triathlete. He was the second best-performing Cebuano in last year’s Ironman 70.3 in Camsur behind Gerrie Calinawan.

“Gerrie Calinawan, I believe, is the top Cebuano Triathlete today. He was still a junior when I last raced against him 10 years ago. His potential is extremely high and I believe he can be one of the favorites to win or podium among the Filipino Elites in the Ironman 70.3’s near future.”

I interviewed Chris about biking. Why is it so much more popular today? “Huge difference (now vs. before),” he said. “We can’t compare it. There are so much more people riding bikes these days. You see a lot of Mountain Bikes, Road Bikes and even Folding Bikes. The Bicycle events and races have not grown, though. It still is far from being mainstream. But what has grown are the number of recreational riders. Now, you see a lot doing the night rides in Busay, Mountain Biking in Maria Luisa, etc. Mountain Biking has always had a mix of both Recreational Riders and Serious Riders, while Road Cycling were always more of the Hardcore and Competitive riders. Today, there are tons of new and recreational guys on their road bikes. It’s unbelievable.”

Aldeguer cites three factors for the popularity of biking.

One: more people are health-conscious and cycling is a terrific form of exercise. Two: The running boom has led to a cycling/triathlon boom. “The runners either add cycling to their training or they shift because of the wear and tear and injury from too much running,” said Chris. Three: the bike shops. More bikes and parts are now available. Said Chris: “These shops are now in strip malls that are easily accessible to customers.”

Lance Armstrong joining Cebu’s XTERRA or Ironman?

Yes. I mean, yes, there’s a possibility. The 7-time Tour de France champion joined two XTERRA races last year.

What’s XTERRA? It’s an off-road triathlon with an open-sea swim, a mountain-bike ride, and an off-road trail run. Lance joined the XTERRA USA Championship in Utah last September—his first—and he placed an impressive 5th place. “At 40 years old, I guess I could have gone home and drank beer and played golf all day long,” Armstrong said. “But it’s cool to come out here and test yourself, and also just support a sport that I think is really cool.” He joined another XTERRA race in Maui, Hawaii last October; this time, the World Championship. He placed 23rd—despite crashing head-on with one mile to go on his MTB.

Will Lance join the March 18 edition of the XTERRA here in Cebu? That’s the dream scenario envisioned by the organizers, led by Fred Uytengsu, Jr., who extended his invitation for LA to visit the Philippines for the first time.

If Lance does land in Mactan and joins the 1500m swim, 30K bike and 10K run that will start/end at Amara in Liloan, it will mark the grandest-ever visit of any athlete to Cebu. Dennis Rodman played basketball in Mandaue. Ken Griffey, Jr. threw baseballs at the Aboitiz Sports Field. Davis Cup tennis stars have swatted forehands here; PBA heroes have rebounded balls on dozens of occasions. But Lance is the superstar of super-athletes.

IRONMAN. This weekend, thanks to the recent email from Lance’s lookalike in Cebu—that’s Chris Aldeguer—Mr. Armstrong will be joining Ironman Panama 70.3. This is the same Ironman race that will kickoff at Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa this August 5.

Why this shift to triathlon for Lance? Prior to riding his Trek bike, he raced in triathlons. Says Wikipedia: “At the age of 12, he began his sporting career as a swimmer… and finished fourth in Texas state 1,500-meter freestyle. He abandoned swimming-only competition after seeing a poster for a junior triathlon called the Iron Kids Triathlon, which he entered and won at age 13.” Lance soon became America’s No.1 ranked triathlete in the 19-and-under group.

So, there. This is a comeback. This also means two chances for Armstrong to visit Cebu: XTERRA or Ironman.

CONTADOR. Speaking of his arch-rival Alberto Contador, what a contrast of fates. Just days ago, the cycling champ’s appeal of his two-year ban due to drugs was upheld by the sport’s highest ruling body, the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Contador was stripped of his 2010 Tour de France title.

Lance? The opposite. After a two-year-long federal investigation into his alleged drug use, the case was dropped and he’s declared innocent. This is huge news. One, Lance is a worldwide symbol of hope and sporting greatness. Had he been convicted, this would have told the world, “Nobody in sports can be trusted.” Two, Lance is a symbol of cancer survival. His image—and that of his good works against the Big C—would have been forever tarnished. Third, the investigators are the best. Named the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, they’re led by America’s sharpest lawyers and they’ve convicted the likes of Marion Jones and Tyler Hamilton.

And so, in this Armstrong vs. Contador “drugs” battle, the American beats the Spaniard.

CANCER. If you recall, Lance was given a 40% survival chance after testicular cancer had spread to his lungs, abdomen and brain. He lived. He biked. He won 7 TdFs. And, despite having surgery down there and retaining only “one ball,” this Superman beats me and so many others by rearing five children!

The latest good news on LA’s cancer fight? I call it the “Big C vs. the Evil C.” Lance is spearheading a campaign in California that will add an additional $1 tax (per pack) on cigarettes. Called the California Cancer Research Act, once approved, this will bring in nearly $1 billion in support of cancer research.

I call it the 4 Cs: Cycling Champ in Cancer vs. Cigarettes fight. Will Lance visit another “C” this 2012? Cebu? Let’s C.

Tri again! Chris Aldeguer returns

The last time the youngest son of Antonio Lopez Aldeguer joined a triathlon event? In 2003. The next time Chris Aldeguer will try the Tri? Three days from now.

“It’s been nine years,” said Chris. “It’s been that long. I joke my teammates that while they had a two-month off-season, I had nine years. But it’s quite different now. I seem to have more fun. Before, triathlon was my #1 priority. My life revolved around it. This time, it’s only behind family and work.”

Chris’ dive back into the triathlon waters will commence this Sunday. On the island of Siquijor, he’ll join the Olympic Distance contest: 1500m Swim, 40K Bike, and 10K Run.

“I don’t know what to expect,” Chris said. “I feel my swim and bike are ready. That’s easy to predict. I feel I am prepared, but am not certain how fast I can run off the bike. It’s been 9 years since I last did such a transition. It’s that element that remains uncertain. I’m hoping I did enough with my training, but the absence from racing is what will make this challenging.”

In college, Chris played point guard for the USC Warriors. And, beginning 1998, he trained for triathlon. From ‘98 to 2003, Chris swam, pedaled, ran. He joined over 100 races. He was part of the RP triathlon national squad.

“Every medal I won was special,” said Chris, when I asked which event stood out. “But the highlights are the races that I won (2000 Catmon, 2001 in Danao and Batangas, 2002 in Mactan). Every race I did internationally to represent the country was special: in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, USA, and Mexico.”

Fast forward to Siquijor, ever the competitive athlete, Chris says, “I would like to podium, but I hope to at least be in the Top 5… There seem to be several fast new Triathletes. It will depend on how strong the field will be this Sunday.”

After nine years of triathlon inactivity and after dabbling in 42K races (Chris joined the Las Vegas and Hong Kong marathons), in basketball, in MTB’ing around the hills of his Maria Luisa home, why the return this Year of the Water Dragon?

(Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images)

“I always believed that I might race Triathlons again. I did not expect it to be this soon. Having the Ironman 70.3 in Cebu somehow played a part in my decision. One of the things I hated when I raced full time was the travel. I would travel several times a month to join races nationally and internationally. Now that the Ironman 70.3 and Xterra are here, it makes things easier. I know with these two races, there will also be plenty of local races. Racing locally is more fun for me.

“As a triathlete by heart, and the Ironman 70.3 coming to Cebu, it did not make sense for me not to join. A funny part of me was hoping it would not come here so I will not be forced to go back to Triathlon. But it is coming.”

Very timely, Chris’ reentry to triathlon is also marked by his return to the biking business.

VELLUM. That’s the “high-end boutique brand” of performance bikes that Chris (with Mike Flores and Eugene Sanchez) founded in 2004. But after several years, Chris relinquished his role with Vellum to concentrate on being President of family-owned Loalde.

Now, he’s back as CEO. “Being more active with Vellum is perfect timing. It’s easier to grasp the industry while I am back to racing. It gives me a better feel overall. Though I don’t think it had any influence on my decision to race again.”

As to triathlon’s popularity? Chris adds: “It actually has a downside. I feel triathlon was more pure and genuine before. Now, it is very commercialized. So many are in the sport for its popularity and image rather than the purity of the sport’s heritage and what it is all about. However, I believe the upside outweighs the downside. Because of the sport’s growth, events are now more organized and professional. There is more media coverage. The number of participants are 10 times more. With the popularity of running, the growth of endurance sports is overwhelming. A lot of runners are expected to transition to Triathlon. I think Triathlon’s growth is far from its peak.”

2012: Year of the (Water Dragon) Triathlete

According to the Chinese Zodiac, next year will be the Year of the Dragon. It will run from January 23, 2012 until February 9, 2013. The exact name? Year of the Water Dragon. This terminology is fitting because in 2012, water will be the leading and predominant form of sporting events.

While running has blossomed into an every-Sunday event the past three years, another sport will become so popular that thousands will dive into this exercise. It’s called triathlon and it involves swimming, biking and running. Next year, an astounding two mega-triathlon events will happen in Cebu.

First, the XTERRA. This is the off-road version and will be held in Liloan. The Start/Finish line is at Amara with the race passing through Porter Marina and Papa Kit’s.     “Instead of one XTERRA race in March,” said race organizer Guy Concepcion of Sunrise Events Inc., in his email a few days ago, “it will be an XTERRA Weekend (trail run on March 17; XTERRA full distance triathlon and XTERRA Lite on March 18). The XTERRA Lite will not be a Maui qualifier. It is a shorter distance race to encourage mountain bikers who have not yet mastered swimming and/or running.”

XTERRA is not a Manila or national sporting brand—it’s a world-recognized event. Right here in Cebu. Added Guy: “This past September and October, Lance Armstrong joined the XTERRA USA Championship and the XTERRA World Championships as his first triathlon races in 20 years. As you may know, Lance Armstrong started off as a triathlete before focusing solely on cycling, and the rest is history. Imagine, of all the events he could join after retiring from cycling for good, he chose XTERRA. And he was quoted re: XTERRA:  ‘… it’s cool to come out here and test yourself, and also just support a sport that I think is really cool.’

Does this mean that, like Kobe Bryant and David Beckham arriving in Manila, the 7-time Tour de France champ, Mr. Armstrong, might land in Cebu this March? Abangan.

(Jim Urquhart/AP)

The second “Year of the (Water Dragon) Triathlon” event is the Ironman 70.3. Wow. This is overwhelming news. This is terrific for Cebu, painful for Camsur. This was the one event that made Camarines Sur popular. Now, after three years, it’s taken away from them. In August 5, 2012, it will be held in the cities of Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue and Cebu. The start/finish line is reportedly at the Shangri-La Resort and Spa in Mactan.

What does this mean? Many runners will swim. Many swimmers will bike. Many mountain-bikers will do road cycling. This is a tremendous victory for Cebu.

ACCIDENT. Dr. Raymund Bontol sent me this text message yesterday: “Good day, I have sad news. I was in an accident yesterday during my bike ride. A speeding motorcycle overtook me from behind and to my right side then hit me causing me to crash. My helmet and shades broke in two and I have stitches in my face and many abrasions in my hands and body. I did not lose consciousness and was immediately brought to the hospital by my mom.

“With God’s blessing, I am fine and healing. This made me open my eyes to the poor laws we have for road safety. The speeding motorcycle was said to be driven by a topless man and he was believed to be drunk. He had no helmet, too. If only our laws would be more strict regarding road safety then accidents would be less for us cyclists or pedestrians. We never caught the motorcycle because the witnesses helped me to get out of the road.”

The case of Dr. Bontol, a super-fit marathoner/triathlete, is not the first involving reckless motorcyclists. There have been thousands. Another almost similar accident involved a good friend last month. While biking near Carcar, a motorcycle driver made an unexpected U-turn that caused him to crash and be hospitalized.

“I hope we can impose better laws regarding road safety,” said Dr. Bontol. “Motorcycle drivers are sometimes disrespectful and to think they demand the same space as cars. And yet they can’t even respect pedestrians and cyclists.”

Aloha, Hawaii! Noy is the Ironman Pinoy

“I was 14 years old when I got a hand-me-down copy of Triathlete magazine from my uncle Jeng, who was the Philippine champion at that time,” said Noy Jopson.

“I was drawn to the images of the race, the lava fields, the legendary winds of the Queen K Highway, the crowd at Alii Drive as you’re about to finish the race. It’s what got me in the sport in the first place 22 years ago.”

The Ford Ironman World Championship. It’s the Wimbledon of triathlon. It’s their Super Bowl, World Cup, and Olympics. It’s happening next Sunday, October 9. And Noy Jopson is joining.

Only one other Cebuano has ever participated in this event that covers a 3.9-km. swim, a 180-km. bike ride, and a 42-km. run. That Cebuano is Fred Uytengsu, the owner of Alaska Milk and one of the country’s most influential sportsmen. Fred, who resides in Manila, is “Cebuano” because he was born here. Noy is also Cebuano. He’s married to Amale Mendezona and, for many years now, has called this city home.

The Ironman in Kona, Hawaii is exclusive. Only qualifiers (the elite triathletes) can join. Noy qualified in last August’s Ironman in Camsur.

Noy is a legend in this swim-bike-run event. He is a 4-time Phil. champion (1994, 95,1997,98), a silver medalist in the Asian Championships in Korea, and was the Philippine record holder in the Olympic Distance from 1998 to 2009, timing 2:01:04.

In the inaugural Ironman two years ago in Camarines Sur, he was the Filipino Elite Champion. Two months ago, he was 2nd overall, 35 to 39 age group—which made him qualify for Hawaii.

Next Sunday? As expected, he aims high. “I expect to have a great race since I prepared very well for this event,” he said. “I also expect to savor every moment of the whole experience.”

Noy’s goal is to become only the second Filipino in history to go under 10 hours. The reigning Cobra Ironman 70.3 Philippine champ, Arland Macasieb, holds the record at 9:48. Noy wants to be “the first one to do it in the Kona Ironman World Championships.”

His time goals: 58 mins on the 3.9km swim, 5:28 on the 180km bike and then a 3:28 marathon. His favorite discipline? The bike. “I love the technology and the feeling of speed,” he said.

A total of 14 Pinoys are joining. “There are 11 Pinoys who qualified in Camsur, all the original Camsur Podium Placers, myself, Peter Gonzales and Ferdie Catabian have qualified. Its awesome that I will get to share the journey with five of my teammates from Polo Tri Team, Ferdie, Fiona Ottinger, Larry Ocampo, Amanda Carpo and captain Fred Uytengsu who will be doing Kona for the 2nd time. There are also 2 Fil-Ams who have qualified in the US, so all in all there will be 14 Pinoys at the Ironman World Championships.”

This 226-km. distance is not new to Noy. In the only two Ironman events held here, he’s placed first (Phil. Enduraman 2003) and second (Phil. Iron-Distance 2002).

Noy’s schedule includes joining 20,000 others in today’s Milo Half-Marathon. He’ll pace with his wife Amale. “It be my last long run and we hope to run it in 1:45, which will also be my target pace for Kona on Saturday,” he said. “Tomorrow (Monday), I head to The Brick Multi-Sport Store in McKinley Hill to pack my bike in a hard case and get nutrition supplies. Tuesday after lunch I’m off to Honolulu, staying with my Tita overnight, then Kona early Wednesday morning. I’ll be back in Cebu on the 14th in time for Mendel and Lhoriz’s wedding.”

I asked Noy, What will you think about in those 10 hours of suffering in Hawaii? “I will be thinking a lot about my family back here in Cebu, my wife Amale, kids Mikele and Rafa. I’ll also be thinking about my mom, who’s been my number one sponsor over the years; my sister Joyette, cousins Pong, Redg and Ogie who are all triathletes and have all shared the journey with me. I’m so blessed to have a supportive family, I have to make it up to them big time when I get back.”