Lance Armstrong: Still an inspiration

We don’t know the truth. He may have. He may have not. Nobody but Lance Armstrong knows the truth. But, this truth we know: Among the billions of inhabitants our planet has hosted, he is the greatest human being ever to pedal on two wheels.

Pele. Ali. MJ. Federer. Phelps. Bolt. The name “Lance,” without question, belongs in the same sentence as those revered icons.

Remember the LA story? He was scheduled to die. A world cycling champion by the age of 21, he succumbed to testicular cancer that spread throughout his youthful system. Doctors declared him dead. Or, at least, they gave him a 30 percent chance of survival.

Biking? Climbing the Pyrenees? Winning a race… any race? Ha. Ha. Ha. Forgot those. How about breathing? Standing up? Walking? He walked. He climbed the Trek saddle. He pedaled. Then, miraculously, shortly after that near-death moment, he wins the 1999 Tour de France. Not once or thrice–but seven times, the most of any cyclist. And more than that, he won them every July from ’99 to 2005. Seven straight.

We all know the Tour de France. It is the single most excruciating and painful of endeavors, UFC included. You bike everyday for 23 days (with only two days of rest in between). The total distance for those three weeks? About 3,500 kilometers–many of those climbing the steepest of climbs atop the Pyrenees or the French Alps.

But more than his accomplishments on the bike, his life’s more enduring impact was felt in the cancer community.

Livestrong, his foundation, was started in 1997. It will turn 15 years old in October.

Did you know that almost $500 million (that’s over P21 billion!) has been raised by Livestrong? Can you imagine the tens of thousands of lives that money has helped save?

Added a CNN report: “More than 100,000 people have engaged in an awareness-raising activity such as running, walking or riding in the name of Livestrong.”

To me, this is Lance Armstrong. The inspiration. And this is how I choose to remember him. Like my good friend Dr. JV Araneta, who wrote a beautiful piece (“A Champion Forever”) in The Freeman yesterday, I’ve long concluded this statement: Lance is a hero.

That’s why yesterday, while playing tennis, I wore my favorite “US Postal” yellow cap. And, two afternoons ago while mountain biking in Maria Luisa, I wore the black-and-yellow Livestrong jersey and cycling shorts.

Chris Aldeguer, who has followed Lance even before his ’99 TdF victory, has made the same conclusion. When I chanced upon Chris early Sunday night, we biked and talked about Lance. Chris’ words? Though it’s highly unusual for a fighter like Lance not to fight this legal battle, he knows that the USADA has made its “You’re guilty!” verdict from the very start… and so it’s useless to fight.

“I’m focused on the future,” said Armstrong after joining a mountain-biking race in Colorado. “I’ve got five great kids, a great lady in my life, a wonderful foundation that’s completely unaffected by any noise out there, and we’re going to continue to do our job. The people like the people who are standing around here or on the course, they voiced their opinion in the last 48 hours and are going to support us.”

Optimistic. Looking ahead. Pedaling forward. Regardless of the mountain to climb, that’s Lance.

UC’s pride June Mar Fajardo is PBA’s No.1 pick

I spoke to Atty. Augusto Go last Friday. We talked about the most talked-about player in Philippine basketball this week: J.M. Fajardo.

“Before the PBA Rookie Draft,” said Atty. Go, “when he was selected by Petron as the number one pick, he visited me in my UC office. Buotan kaayo. You cannot find a more humble person. June Mar was so grateful and thankful. But I told him, ‘No, it is I who should say thank you for all that you have brought to our school.’”

(SunStar/Arni Aclao)

The 6-foot-10 behemoth of a Cebuano is now a multi-millionaire Manila resident. Set to earn the maximum salary for a rookie of P150,000 per month in his first year (P225,000/month in Year Two and P337,500 in his third year), he will be dribbling and smiling his way to the ATM machine.

Out of the 39 rookies who were chosen to join the PBA—Asia’s first pro basketball league (and reportedly the world’s second oldest after the NBA)—it was June Mar who was picked by fuel giant Petron.

“This fellow is extraordinary,” continued Atty. Gus Go. “He has no airs in him. You know what? Years back, a school in Manila offered him scholarship with a lot of money and he turned that down. He is so humble. Labing grabeha ka buotan. I’m so happy for him.”

Atty. Baldomero “Merong” Estenzo, the Executive Vice Chancellor for the AWG (Augusto W. Go) Group and a huge basketball fan (he’s also a tennis player), confirms the kindhearted heart of their pupil.

“I admire his loyalty to the school and to the team,” said Atty. Estenzo. “He was offered by Smart Gilas through Pato Gregorio. I told Pato that we need June Mar more than they need him. I am very happy that his loyalty to the school has given him his just rewards.”

June Mar Fajardo’s beginnings at the University of Cebu started five years ago when he approached the school wanting to try-out for the team.

Actually, UC was not his first choice. He wanted the University of Southern Philippines (USP).     “Fortunately for us,” said Atty. Estenzo, “USP does not offer a Nautical Course which he wanted to take at that time.” With his 6-foot-5 height at the age of 17, UC grabbed him to join the varsity squad “without any second thoughts,” said Estenzo.

For five years, he donned the blue-and-gold colors of the University of Cebu. He and Greg Slaughter, who wore green for the University of the Visayas (UV), were the “Twin Towers” of Cebu collegiate basketball. For where could you find, anywhere in our 7,107 islands, two giants at 7’0” and 6’10” but in Cebu?

In Fajardo’s last two seasons with the UC Webmasters, he fulfilled his twin ambitions: CESAFI champions and Most Valuable Player awards.

As a student (from his first year in Nautical, he shifted to Hotel and Restaurant Management), June Mar was just as focused inside the classroom as he was on the basketball floor. “He finished his HRM Course last school year,” said Estenzo. “He is well-liked by his teachers because he always tries his best. I think it is indeed an achievement to graduate considering the practices he has to go through aside from his school work.”

Augusto Go concurs: “In my talks with June Mar, I would always tell him, as I do the other varsity players, that you cannot play sports and basketball all your life. It’s important to get a degree.”

Having personally overseen Fajardo’s improvements with UC, I asked Atty. Estenzo what makes his player, apart from his height, stand out.

“As a player, June Mar is determined. He does not complain about hard practices. He is always the first to arrive in practice. He is also one who is willing to sacrifice to learn. We knew then that he will have a very bright future, barring any injuries or falling into temptations. Seldom can you find a player of his height who moves fast and well. He is also easy to teach.”

GOOD NEWS. Announced Gus Go: “Fajardo is coming over with another UC alumni, Don-Don Hontiveros. Petron will have an exhibition game on Sept. 9 at the Cebu Coliseum versus the All-Star selection of Cesafi.”

The POC Chairman speaks after London

At the Beijing Olympics four years ago, Jasmin and I pose with Monico Puentevella

Monico Puentevella could not take my call at 3:30 P.M. yesterday. He was huddled in a meeting. The chairman of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) was busy presiding over the POC’s first Board Meeting after London.

“We were complete,” said Monico, during our 15-minute talk late yesterday afternoon. “Peping Cojuangco, Manny Lopez and the POC Board members attended.”

Happy? Satisfied? Smiling? Those aren’t words best to describe Mr. Puentevella’s demeanor.

“The results are the same. Our analysis is the same. We need to strengthen the grassroots. We need the NSA (National Sports Associations) to improve. We need to take out the leaders who are not producing. We keep on singing the same song each Olympics,” he said.

That’s why the former Congressman of Bacolod City is looking forward to a full Senate and Congress hearing. While many are anxious to face the powerful lawmakers, Monico is not.

“I hope Congress will call an Assessment Hearing,” he said. This way, the nation will know that there’s no money allocated for sports.

“Peping (Cojuangco) talks about building the training center in Clark. We have so many grand plans. But the question is, ‘Where’s the money?’”

With Manny, Noel Villaflor and Jonas Panerio during the SAC Awards

ENGLAND. Buoyed by the success of their Olympic hosting, the English are jubilant.

“You know how many hours Great Britain wants to allocate for Physical Education?” Monico asked.

Two hours.

Two hours… per week? I asked. “No,” he said. “Two hours PER DAY. That’s how much they value P.E. and sports. And more so with their recent success in London where Great Britain won a record 29 gold medals.”

Two hours daily of P.E.?

Ours in the Philippines? “We have two hours… per week. And that’s divided into music, health and sports. Many students only get 45 minutes of P.E. for the whole week.”

How do we expect to win that gold if we devote so little time on sports? And, even if plenty of focus is apportioned for sports, there are still no guarantees. Look at Australia. They have the sports high schools. They operated the Australian Sports Institute, one of the earth’s best.

“But they lost to New Zealand,” said Monico. “Now, the Australians are going back to the drawing board, studying what went wrong, including in swimming.”

What did the POC Chairman watch in London? “Of course, I saw our Filipinos participate. Our BMX competitor? Sadly, he came from America but he was overrated. He wasn’t in the same league as the others.”

It was a sorry sight, said Monico, watching our Pinoys fall one after the other.
“We should forget about swimming and athletics in the Olympics,” he said. “The average height of the swimmers is 6-foot-5. I watched Usain Bolt, who also stands 6’5”, win the 100-meter dash. We can’t compete against them. We should focus on archery, shooting, ping-pong, badminton, boxing.”

Ever the tennis fanatic, Monico witnessed Roger Federer’s thrilling 19-17 third set victory in the semis against Juan Martin del Potro. The men’s finals in Wimbledon? “I saw that!” he said. “We were all excited to see Federer be aggressive but na luoy ko niya. He looked tired after that semifinal.”

Basketball? “I watched several of Team USA’s games including their gold medal win over Spain. That was scary. It was only in the last four minutes that the Americans won that game. This tells us one thing: everyone’s improving.”

As for his future plans, Monico revealed them: “I’m running for mayor in Bacolod next year. One of my goals is to build the best boxing gym in the Philippines. I’ll rebuild the old basketball gym at the Bay Center, fronting the Plaza, and will convert it into a world-class facility.”

Monico plans to hire a Cuban coach and to bring boxers from nearby Cadiz, Bago, Manapla and Himamaylan to “The City of Smiles.” Then, he added, “we’ll revive what Bidoy Aldeguer and I used to do… bring boxers to Cebu and bring yours over to Bacolod.”

Then, in the process, find our first Olympic gold medalist?

Categorized as Olympics

Rafa, injured again? Roger on that!

He is a graceful ice skater wearing tennis shoes and wielding a racket. He glides. He floats. He’s effortless and exquisite — hovering and dancing on court.

Twice, I had the chance to watch Roger Federer play. The first, in Kuala Lumpur, was an exhibition contest against Pete Sampras. That weekend in KL with our Cebu contingent (Chinggay Utzurrum, Michelle So, my brother Charlie and his wife Mitzi, Rene Ven Polinar, Dr. Ronnie Medalle and his wife Steph) was extra memorable because I joined a by-invitation-only gathering with Roger and Pete. (In the quick photo-op, I shook hands and had a photo with Pete — it should have been with the Swiss!)

Then, in Beijing four years ago, Jasmin and I watched several of Roger’s forehands. One was at ringside when he dismissed of Dmitry Tursunov as LeBron James sat in attendance. Another was his Olympic gold medal doubles win.

My observations of the 17-Grand Slam winner? RF makes tennis look so easy. And tennis isn’t child’s play. There’s topspin, underspin, sidespin and the American twist. There’s a delicate drop volley, a flying overhead smash, an inside-out forehand.

Roger is so gifted that, if God were to create just one magical netter, he’d be the 31-year-old Basel-born father of twins who just won Cincinnati trophy No. 5.

Of all the success stories surrounding Roger, you know what I find most phenomenal? That he’s hardly gotten injured.

Tennis is an injury-prone game. It’s not physical like football or basketball and there’s no wrestling like the UFC. But, you’re all alone in tennis. You sprint miles, zigzag, swing, jump, slide. Your wrist can snap, knee can twist, ankle can roll. (Dr. Tony San Juan operated on my shoulder over a year ago.)

Roger, who has amassed 76 career titles and won 862 of his 1055 matches (an 81 % winning clip), has almost never gotten injured. Can you believe that?

In contrast, Rafael Nadal is suffering the opposite. Five years younger, Nadal’s succumbed to multiple injuries.

His current trauma — Hoffa’s Syndrome or the Fat Pad Impingement — is a knee-related injury that can be extremely painful. Because of this, Nadal did not defend his Olympic gold and he’ll skip the US Open, which begins this Monday. Painful? Yes, figuratively and literally.

Why this sad Rafa predicament while Roger doesn’t miss a single day at the office? I also watched Nadal in person twice and, while sitting on my chair, I was exhausted watching his type of physical, brutal and merciless play.

“Rog is uncomplicated and smooth while Raf is laborious and excruciating,” I wrote in an article last Sept. 2009. “The former results to less injuries; the latter, well, eight weeks off the Tour… With Rafa, you can see the muscles flexing; he’d jump, scramble, sprint, flick his wrist like it would snap. He’s too physical—and too likely to get injured. Roger is a ballerina on rubber shoes. He doesn’t run, he skates. Glides. He hovers. Waltzing around the tennis rectangle, he skims. Sails. He tiptoes. The result? His body’s not battered.”

Longevity? We know the winner.

CONGRATS. The past weekend was a triumphant one for us. It was my brother Charlie’s birthday. My mom, Allen, climbed three bridges (or was it four because you traverse up Cansaga Bridge twice?) in the 7th University Run and finished the grueling 25K with her trademark smile.

Plus… the day that I awaited finally arrived: my 13-year-old daughter Jana beat me in tennis. The score? She won the first set, 7-6. In the second, she led 5-1 before I won the next five games to win 7-5. In the third set, she raced to another 5-1 lead before I clawed back to 5-4. Then, with a handful of match points, she served a “down-the-T” ace to beat her dad, 6-4.

Yesterday was the most satisfying loss I’ve ever had.

Warning: Exercise is not all good

You and I will die. That’s a fact. It’s not a question of “If we’ll die…” but when. It may be tonight at 11:25. It may be this Wednesday. It may be in five or 50 years. Jasmin’s lola, Corazon Gayanilo, celebrated her 101st birthday last month. Jasmin has another lolo who biked at the age of 104. Many others, sad to know, leave us at such a youthful and untimely age. Such is the uncertainty of life: We never know.

But this we know: If we quit smoking, temper our refueling of Johnnie W.; if we eat more mongo than lechon, smile more and frown less, and, if we’re surrounded by people we love and who care for us, chances are we’ll live extra years.

One other formula for longevity? Exercise.

You and I know this. The more time we spend sweating, the less time we’ll spend in CebuDoc or Chong Hua. The formula is easy: More exercise = more years. Less movement today = more medicines to buy tomorrow.

So… Exercise. But there’s another malady afflicting us today. Because while exercise is good, too much is bad. In fact, some who exert too much effort, who punish their heart and pummel their body to such extremes end up with the most extreme of occurrences: death. The maxim, “Too much of a good thing is bad” applies to food, money, fame and, yes, exercise.

What’s my point? Several points. First, when you engage in sports, do it gradually. If you’re 275 lbs. and were inspired by watching the recent Cobra Ironman 70.3 super-athletes, don’t enlist in the 21K run. Do a 3K. Or a 5K. Take it easy. Our body takes time to adapt. We can’t–and shouldn’t–lose 30 lbs. in three weeks. Patience and steady bodily punishment are best.

I’ll tell you a not-so-funny story. As one of the lead organizers of the Cebu City Marathon, I had access to the records of the 42K participants. We interviewed several of the 1,500+ participants. And while the good news was that many of the 42K runners were first-timers, what shocked Meyrick and Perl Jacalan, Roy Trani, Jesse Taborada, and our CERC group was this:

Many of the first-time 42K runners only finished one 21K. Unbelievable. it was crazy. They’re unprepared. Of course, we couldn’t ban them. Many, we discouraged to join. Based on experience, you need a couple of years of running background, at least four or more 21Ks, and should practice one or two 32K runs before embarking on that full marathon. But, no. Many said… We want to that medal NOW! Never mind my under-training. I can do this!

Crazy. As if the 42K were a walk in the park. Sure, Plaza Independencia is a park and it’s part of the route… but marathon running is difficult and requires months of preparation.

My first point: Don’t jump. Be patient. The “10 percent rule” (increase your mileage or time exercising by no more than 10 percent per week) is best. (Kung Binisaya pa: ayaw patuga-tuga.)

Second point: Visit your doctor. Have an Executive Check-up. Allow the hospital and clinics to take multiple tests of your fitness level. Do a stress test. How are your cholesterol levels? (Which reminds me: mine was shockingly high, 271, over a year ago; I need to get another one.)
Before embarking on any strenuous target (the 21K or the 42K? a half-Ironman? biking 100 kms.?), have a medical examination.

Third point: During the actual run or race, if you’re feeling extra tired and are about to faint or are just feeling unusually weak… stop. Walk. Drink. Wait. I know we’re all pushed to push ourselves. But, there are moments when we should stop. And by stopping, I mean quitting. Nobody wants to quit. Nobody wants to face his or her friends after the race and say, “Sorry, ni undang ko.” Sure, uwaw kaayo mo undang. But, you know what? If it can mean saving your life, then stop. There’s always another race next Sunday. Our bodies are living machines. If pushed over our limits, we breakdown.

A good example was the Timex 226 Ironman in Bohol last December. The “226” refers to double the recent Ironman 70.3 distance. It refers to 3.8 kms. of swimming, a 180-km. bike ride and a full marathon (42.195 kms.) You know what happened? Out of the 70-plus participants who joined, everyone finished the race… except one: Neil Catiil, the elite traithlete who was supposed to win the whole race. He apparently got dehydrated and quit. Sad and embarrassing story for Neil but, looking at the brighter side, he lived to compete in future events.

You know what my all-time favorite running quote is? It’s the motto of the Singapore Marathon. In every kilometer along the route, huge placards of this message is broadcasted for the 50,000 runners to see. The words?? RUN YOUR OWN RACE. So, take it easy.

Categorized as Fitness

Our only chance for Olympic gold?

BOXING. I’m watching this Saturday night. The fight at the Waterfront is called “The Rematch.” And aptly so: the last time Jason Pagara faced Rosbel Montoya, our Filipino boxer lost. This Mexican fighter is seasoned and tough: He’s won 34 times with 29 knockouts. That’s a scary record.

And so, while previous ALA Promotions events featured our Pinoys sporting the upper-hand, this time, it’s obvious that the enemy is stronger. Can Pagara avenge his previous defeat? Abangan.

OLYMPICS. Many critics proclaimed the London Games as the best ever. It’s possible. There were no hitches. Security? Nah. Plus… The Americans won 46 gold and 104 total medals. Great Britain amassed 65 medals, including 29 gold. Michael Phelps increased his harvest to 22 medals and Usain Bolt is six for six. Kobe Bryant’s boast of toppling the ’92 Dream Team of Michael Jordan? He makes sense. It may be true. (Although the 1992 Dream Team had a margin of victory of 43.8 points versus the 32.1 of the 2012 team.)

Our Philippine team? Zero. As expected. In almost all events, we lost early. The last time Team PHL won a medal? That was in 1996 when Onyok Velasco won silver. That’s four Olympics ago. In Sydney, Athens, Beijing and London, we’re zero for zero. Worse, in the sport where we have the biggest chance (boxing), we only sent one boxer (a wrestler?) to London. Conclusion: While the other nations get stronger, we’re staying the same or weakening.

With the Olympics’ current roster of 26 sports and 302 events, it’s hard to picture us winning gold in Brazil. Our only chance? If the IOC includes any of these three popular games: billiards, bowling or dancesport.

YONG VS. TIMEX. It’s happening again. Two years ago, one of the biggest running events — the University Run, organized by the CebuDoc group and Dr. Yong Larrazabal — collided with an unexpected rival: the Pilipinas International Marathon (PIM), sponsored by the International Pharmaceuticals Inc. (IPI) group. Both events were held on the same morning of Aug. 15, 2010.

This Sunday, two years fast forward, it’s de ja vu time: the 7th University Run (dubbed UR7) is met with another stiff resistance: the Timex Run – Cebu.

Same day. Same time. Coincidental? Yes. But unfortunate because both are outstanding. Rio de la Cruz, the famed coach/celebrity organizer, is teaming-up with the Pangilinans (Anthony, Maricel and family) for Timex, to start near the Abellana (Cebu City Sports Center) grounds. Piolo Pascual is expected to meet and greet with his fans.

UR7? It’s held at the Cebu Doc Univ. campus at the North Reclamation Area and, with their school’s thousands of students, it will surely be a full-capacity race.

Though Timex is conveniently-located in Cebu City, I think the hard-core runners won’t miss the chance to run 25K and climb the three bridges (Cansaga, M. Fernan, and the old Mactan Bridge).

Either way, what’s sure is this: the streets of Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue and Cebu (like it was two weeks ago during the Cobra Ironman 70.3) will be flooded with athletes this Sunday.

TEARS FOR FEARS. A self-avowed lover of 80s music, I trooped to Waterfront last Sunday to sing and listen beside thousands of others. We shouted “Shout.” We danced mad at “Mad World.” And, from the moment “Advice For The Young At Heart” was first played, we stood and clapped. Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith were celebrated. The only sad part? They sang several unfamiliar tunes and missed out on three favorites: “Break It Down Again,” “Mother’s Talk,” and “Woman In Chains.”

GLOBE. I’ve long been a loyal and satisfied Globe subscriber. So are all of my family members. But, starting last Saturday, a troubling occurrence happened. From where I live in Maria Luisa, there’s hardly any Globe signal! All part of the supposed “upgrade” of Globe? No wonder the TV stations are inundated with commercials by Smart on dropped calls, etc. Paging Globe and my friend Vincent Ong: kindly fix this not-so-smart problem.

Randy Del Valle at the Olympics

Over a week ago, I got an email from Randy Del Valle, a close friend from Cebu who has since been assigned in London. The avid tennis and sports fan that he is, Randy watched Wimbledon last month and took time to meet with the Filipino Olympians. Here’s Randy’s message…

The Del Valles with the PHL Olympic swimming team

Hi John,

Did you see the London 2012 Opening Ceremony?  While Beijing was big and grand, I think the London opening has more heart, soul and fun into it.  Specifically liked the history, Industrialization, Mary Poppins saving the day, JK Rowling and Voldemort, the Bond and the Queen diving, British pop music, hilarious Mr. Bean and the orchestra, the www founder and the lighting of the cauldrons to make up the Olympic flame.  There were lots of moments but there is a rich story in every cut – for me director Danny Boyle was great and he deserves a medal for planning the opening with lesser amount of budget. Anyways, been very excited this week, as we will see a lot of games here in London.

As mentioned to you before, Christine and I met up with the Philippine team delegation here in London. A good friend hosted a lunch with the athletes and we were able to visit them during practice for a couple of weeks.  We met Jasmine Alkaldi (womens 100m freestyle), Jessie King Lacuna (mens 200m freestyle – he lost today), Marestella Torres (Long Jump) and Rene Herrera (men 5000m)

Christine with swimmers Jasmine and Jessie and coach Pinky Brosas

With long-jumper Marestella Torres

I hope they will do well in the Olympics and score a medal. I know it will be a tall order but miracles do happen. Wishing all our Philippine athletes the best and make all the Filipinos proud!

I will send you more updates on the Olympics matches that we will watch: Swimming finals (Philippine Swimmer Jasmine Alkaldi will be competing there is she will reach top 8); Cycling (last weekend and this Wednesday) and Football Quarterfinals (August 4).


Categorized as Olympics

Post-race Reports of Cebu’s Ironmen (and Women)

CHRIS ALDEGUER: It was my first ever race that I got to smile and enjoy. I never have fun during a race, but this was different. The crowd was unbelievable. I couldn’t believe this magnitude of a race was happening in our hometown. Finish time: 5:30:52.

Photo by Catherine Israel-Angeles

ALAN CHOACHUY: It was very emotional; I broke down at the finish bringing the Biggest Loser flag. First thing that crossed my mind: for all the obese and unhealthy people who thought they have no chance to change. I’m living proof that you can be what you want to be as long as you put your heart in to it. (A year ago I was 309 lbs!) I never life imagined I can finish a 70.3 Ironman.

The race was really tough, my target time was 7 hours (finished in 7:58). I was surprised at my 40-min swim; very relaxing. The second discipline was my favorite but I had mechanical trouble in my bike’s rear tire around Km. 60. A spoke broke and the tire was wobbly. For 30kms, I pedaled harder and that caused my legs to be worn out. I had 4 hours to spare to finish the 21km. It was my longest 21K! At one point, I told myself I’m not going to do this again. But, seconds after crossing the finish, I said, “I will do this again next year!”

Photo by Mike Jo

AMALE JOPSON: Even with the crazy water start and the surprise of the gun about to go off when everyone was way beyond the supposed starting line, I enjoyed the swim leg. The water was clear and calm, which allowed me to maneuver around the slower swimmers from the first wave. Except for a slight current on the way back, swim conditions were great, helping me to clock 32:08 at the timing mat putting us in a good position for the overall win in the all women’s relay. The event was well-staged and made me feel proud that we had a world-class race in Cebu. It made me think that maybe I would like to participate in the individual race next year if I can find a way for my kids not to feel like orphans for a few months while training. 🙂

Amale, Lohriz Echavez-Lopez and Mary Joy Tabal

MENDEL LOPEZ, 3rd placer, Filipino elite. Of all my sporting achievements, this has to be the best ever. I was slow in the swim (34 mins), as I expected. In the bike, I recovered and timed 2:31. I suffered in the run (1:28) because of the biking effort. Triathlon training is not as painful as the marathon. My next target: the Timex 226 (full Ironman) in Bohol this December.

Photo by Jens Funk

JANE-JANE ONG. My 2nd IM 70.3 was very memorable. Of the 3 disciplines, swim is my weakest. However, water on race day was calm, no waves, no undercurrent, no jellyfish. YAY! I surprised myself by cutting my time by 14 min. Bike was very difficult with the strong winds from CICC to Talisay. And I thought Camsur was difficult when the rain poured… but this was worse. But the best part of it being held in Cebu, our homecourt, is that plenty of friends and fellow athletes cheered.

AYA GARCIA SHLACHTER. The most enjoyable part for me was swimming in the open water. It is challenging and you need to be mentally prepared, swimming with hundreds of people. The bike is my weakest but I managed to finish the course in one piece even though I crashed during one of the narrow U-turns. I knew I was going to crash so I decided to gracefully make a free fall to the right without resisting the crash. I picked myself up and continued the bike course injury-free. Most memorable part was when my dear friend Sen. Pia Cayetano was waiting for me in the finish. I will do this again and will recommend it to friends. 7:04:24 was my time.

BERNARD SIA, who replaced Jennylyn Mercado as biker for Team FHM (Fearless Hot Mammas), with swimmer Ripples Faelnar and runner MaiMai Hermosilla. Said Bernard, who clocked 3:06: The IM70.3 will be remembered for a long time. While I awaited for our swimmer my heart rate was already at 112, anxious & excited! During my whole ride I just remembered one tip: keep my heart rate at 150-155. We lost a cyclist, don’t know him personally but would like to dedicate that ride to him. Ramie Igaña, that was for you. Most fun: friends taking time to cheer especially Andy & Renee Ven who took nice picture and this ONCE IN A LIFETIME chance to bike the SRP & the tunnel! Most painful: Fernan bridge Mactan bound & strong headwinds to Talisay!

Photo by Michael Ocana

GANDHI TRUYA, who finished 5:43:49. I enjoy it more than a full marathon, the latter is more painful. Recovery in 70.3 is faster… Cruising at the SRP coastal road getting hit by headwind and blown away by the tailwind is something a cyclist here does not experience often. Compared to Camsur? No offense to CWC but Shangri-La is definitely better. The Marcelo Fernan bridge, the tunnel, and the SRP road are some of the things Camsur can’t offer.

Biking 90 kms. of the Ironman 70.3

To our dear friend Ramie Igaña, may you rest in peace. Life is short and unexpected. Last night while scouring through Facebook, I saw a photo of Ramie together with Richard Ho (who also did the bike relay) on their bikes at the Talisay water pit stop—just minutes before Ramie fell off his bike (possibly due to a heart attack or pulmonary embolism). We pray for his wife, Dr. Humility “Mity,” and their daughter, Niña.

BIKE. I had a personal experience with the 90-km. route because I joined the relay team, doing the bike leg while Jessica Michibata swam and ran. Here’s my short story:

In Shangri-La, less than 40 minutes after the swim start and while waiting at the Transition Area, Jessica runs from the beach area towards the tent. As she arrived, she took off the timing chip from her ankle and handed it to me as I sprinted towards the bike. Less than a minute after pedaling, upon exiting Shangri-La, my chain came off. Oh no! Relax. Don’t panic, I told myself.

The thousands of cheerers–many of them students—along the route was a remarkable sight. Left and right, everybody was cheering. (Funny: in some portions, the children were screaming, “GO, PLAYERS, GO!” as if we were triathlon “players.”) It was hard not to feel excited. As their banners announced and following the DOT slogan, it was “Double the fun in Lapu-Lapu City.”

Biking while the roads were completely free of cars is exhilarating. The asphalted roads from Shangri-La towards the bridge, especially near the MEPZ area, was terrific.

Lohriz Echavez-Lopez, the wife of champ Mendel and a former triathlon star was near me. Climbing the Marcelo Fernan Bridge was easy — because of the adrenaline rush. But the portion after the bridge (Mandaue side) was bad. There were patches of newly-minted asphalt mixed with the old. It was a rough, rocky ride. Scary.

Passing through the Bridges mall (of Alegrado) along Plaridel St. with zero traffic, again, was a rare moment. We zoomed through the intersection (A.C. Cortes Ave.) at full speed. Wow. This is the only time when you can do this.

All was smooth and easy. Until we hit the reclamation area. That’s when the headwind said… not so fast! Pedaling towards CICC, then onwards towards Radisson Blu, you could feel the wind pressure battling your face and body.

The tunnel? Gliding downhill towards the dark zone, you’re in full speed. Then, as you enter, it’s dark. You have to be extra careful because, with the sunglasses on, visibility is minimal. Bikers screamed. Not in fear—but in joy. This was the chance of a lifetime—to bike the tunnel!

The South Road Properties (SRP) was the toughest. The headwind slowed everybody down. It was as if a rubber band was pulling you from behind. Or a giant Iwata fan was blowing in front of you. It was tough. Plus, the sun was out.

Reaching the U-turn point in Talisay City, you’re surrounded by thousands and thousands of residents, many cheering and watching. Again, another awesome sight.

After the U-turn (that’s the 30-km. mark), it was a fast return (often reaching 40kph) back to the CICC where, again, at the Parkmall area, thousands of cheerers congregated.  At the CICC U-turn point (45K), my watch read one hour, 30 minutes–I was on pace to finish in 3 hours.

Photo by Lemuel Arrogante

Then, back headed to Talisay, it was the headwind again. Painful. You just have to lower your head, pedal, think positive.

The return ride was difficult. Upon reaching the bridge (past 80K), your bodily resources are low. Some walked their bikes while climbing the bridge. Finally, it was back to Mactan and, beside Lohriz, a smiling finish at Shangri-La.

My time? 3:09. Slow compared to Pete Jacobs’ 2:15 split but not bad. It was only my fifth time ever on a road bike. Though I’ve been mountain-biking for years, it wasn’t until last week, when I got word that I wouldn’t run and when Chris Aldeguer convinced me and lent me his bike, that I first sat on a racer.