A 300-meter swim. A 15K bike. A 3K run. That’s all it takes to finish the Catmon Triathlon race on March 1, explained Quinito Moras, when I saw my high school buddy at the SM North Wing two Thursdays ago.
Go! I’ll try the Tri! And so, this tennis player-turned-long distance runner—with absolutely no plans of joining a swim-bike-run race a few weeks back—agreed to “Try the Tri.”
With only two practice swims at the Casino Español and two bike rides, at 5:45 a.m. last Sunday, off I drove from my Talamban home with Jasmin and Jana to the Bachao Beach Resort in Catmon.
By 7 a.m., we arrived. Freddy Veloso was there. So was Dax Sarabosing. Jerome Mil, with that ever-wide smile, arrived early as one of the event organizers. Same with Eugene Sanchez, also one of the organizers and the man who “saved” me from almost not joining (I was concerned with the swimming route having no rope.. which Eugene provided). My cousin Anton Regis, a Singapore 70.3 Ironman finisher, looked relaxed and ready. Same with Jun Villamor.
Over two dozen triathletes gathered at the “Pipti-Pipti” race. (Registration fee is only pipti, P50.) At the resort, bikes were hung on the racks. Goggles sat readied on the grass. Helmets were in place. The running and cycling shoes were prepared. Water bottles were filled to the brim. And, like triathletes you see on magazines, we lined up to be marked a number at the shoulders and the back of the legs. Mine? A perfect coincidence: my favorite, # 9.
Noy Jopson, one of this country’s most decorated of triathletes, soon arrived. We were ready. By 9 a.m., the all-male cast was all set to perform. We treaded towards the water when Jerome Mil counted “Three… two… one…” then blew the bullhorn… we were off!
While everyone dove and started circling their arms, I followed the advice of former triathlete Jay Aldeguer (who biked from Cebu City with Ian Gonzaga all the way to Catmon that morning) to avoid the early commotion and stay at the back.
I swam second to the last. Navigating the “L” shaped route, the first half was relaxed. I followed the rope line, breathed often and swam calmly. The problem arose when I reached the end of the “L” line, circled the “Vellum” buoy and swam back for the return lap. The waves, though not storm-like, would swamp my face each time I opened my mouth. Every few seconds, I’d hold the rope. Yikes, I swallowed water.
Ten minutes later and relieved at touching land, I exited the waters—at second place. Yes… second to the last!
Reaching the bike area all wet, I toweled off (my wife later tells me that I looked funny since nobody else brought a tiny towel to dry off). I wore my running shoes, sleeveless shirt, helmet, gloves then ran to the asphalted road for the two loops of biking (7.5K per loop).
The bike route was perfect. It was flat and few vehicles passed. The only problem was… I was too slow. In fact, minutes after pedaling my mountain-bike (MTB), the last person at the swim leg overtook me. Oh no! I’m last! (At that moment, I imagined what this article’s title would read like: The First and the Last—describing how, in my first triathlon, I placed last.)
To make things worse, when I returned to start my second 7.5K loop—the lead pack of Noy Jopson, Gerrie Calinawan and Eugene Sanchez were about to finish the bike leg. I trudged on. Soon, I finally overtook one biker to which my mind rejoiced, I’m not last! I’m not last!
When I finished pedaling the MTB—would you believe—Noy Jopson, Eugene and a handful of others had finished the run and the entire race.
The 3K run—supposed to be a cinch for this runner—wasn’t. On a few occasions, I walked. In the end, after one hour had passed (compared to the 35 minutes it took Noy), I crossed that finish line.
Fun? Absolutely. Will I try the Tri again? Of course.
But, given my 3rd place finish (ahem… third to the last), I’m no certified triathlete yet. Instead, this moniker suits me better… Try-athlete.