First-timers want more

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Monday, August 4, 2014


THEY got kicked, slapped and elbowed. They fought through pain and cramps and the elements during race day. And they are motivated to finish. This may sound like just another day for elite triathletes, but no. These are the things experienced by Cobra Ironman 70.3 newbies Gregg Gabison, Jose Ontanillas Jr. and Dino Tormis.

Jose Ontanillas Jr. of WS TriTeam and Tricore looked forward to finishing his first half Ironman distance. He prepared for the day the entire year but he was never quite prepared for what he encountered on that sunny day in Shangri-la Mactan.

“There were so many participants that it was hard to move. I got kicked and elbowed and my goggles got knocked off,” said Ontanillas.

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“I actually lost a lot of energy in the swim leg because at a certain point, the waves got really huge and the current was too strong. I had to push harder just to finish it and by the time I finished, I was spent,” said Ontanillas.

This experience was shared by fellow first-timers Jiujitsu practitioner Dino Tormis and Dean of the College of Information and Communications and Computer Technology (CICCT) Gregg Gabison.

The swim leg, however, was just the tip of the iceberg. While the battle-scarred pros felt they had a great race, the newbies faced a dangerous bike leg.

The pros did not mind the road situation as they’ve been through worse. But this proved to be something that will stick to the memories of these new triathletes.

The roads were bad, there was strong headwind and the worst part was the tunnel.

“The tunnel was so dark and all you can see are the silhouettes of the other riders,” said Gabison.

Gabison added that it was hard to take off your shades while riding at top speed.

“We were just hoping the rest of the riders will have the proper road etiquette so we won’t collide with each other,” said Gabison.

Ontanillas added that the headwind was so strong that they could not speed up for the fear that they might fall.

After the three survived the harrowing bike leg, they had more fun, albeit in different ways, in the run part.

Tormis and Ontanillas were in pain. Tormis’s ankle acted up, forcing him to walk the last few kilometers, while Ontanillas was cramping. Gabison, on the other hand, was enjoying the final discipline.

Like any hardened triathlete, Tormis and Ontanillas pushed through the pain as they had a mission to fulfill—finish strong and make their loved ones proud.

“There were a lot of sacrifices to prepare for this and I want that to count. And it all paid off when I crossed the finish line within the time that I targeted,” said Ontanillas, who crossed the finish line to a strong support crew: his wife Lulay, his parents and his mother-in-law Marietta.

Tormis said the thought of his wife Gretchen was what kept him going as he pushed through his painful ankle, an old injury, which was triggered when the intense triathlon training began.

Gabison, who is also introducing the sport to his wife Jean, said being working men is something they should be proud of.

“I would like to call ourselves the pro triathletes. But unlike the pros, whose main concern is to train, we are working professionals, who have to look for means to insert training in our busy schedules just so we could get ourselves punished on race day,”said Gabison.

These difficulties and the challenges that they have to overcome may form a huge part of their first Ironman 70.3 memories, but for the three, these will be the memories that are important and that will make them proud to be among the very few, who have earned the right to called half Ironmen.

“These challenges are what makes the Ironman what it is. It wouldn’t be the Ironman without the difficulties,” said Ontanillas.

And would they subject themselves to these challenges? Absolutely. The three now look forward to signing up for next year’s race.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 05, 2014.

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