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.”

Categorized as Triathlon

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.

Categorized as Triathlon

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.

Categorized as Triathlon

Mayor Rex Gerona and the Tabuelan 111

Screen shot 2013-06-17 at 6.46.11 AM

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

photo 1

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!”

Categorized as Triathlon

‘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.

Categorized as Triathlon

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.”

Categorized as Triathlon

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.

Categorized as Triathlon