CALL me biased for sports but, in my seven years with the Rotary Club of Cebu West, I heard our best speaker talk last Tuesday. He’s a Guinness World Record holder. He’s convinced an estimated 30,000 children—many out-of-school youth from the barangays—can transform their lives through sport.

Two nights ago, Edward Hayco spoke. He explained his love for dancesport, his passion to help the needy, his programs for the Cebu City Sports Commission. No doubt, our Rotary members—the attendees last Tuesday included Maxwell Ahyong, Lenton Beltran, Fabby Borromeo, Camilo Ceniza, Andrew Ching, Oscar Chua, Benjie Cimafranca, Toto Cupin, Ben Dapat, Ruel Dihiansan, Nilo Domingo, Romy Dy Pico, Maxwell Espina, Jimmy Lao, Wally Liu, Ronnie Medalle, Nonito Narvasa, Ray Patuasi, Fritz Quiñanola, Caloy Santos, Johnny Siao, Alvin Tan, Justin Uy and Wilton Uykintian—will help our new CCSC chairman.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

ANNIE. If you exercise at the Holiday Gym & Spa or have been running 10K races the past 36 months, then you know Anna Maria Neric. Tall, mestiza, and extremely robust and slim, she’s finished three 42Ks (best one in Condura with a 4:47 time).

This Sunday, Annie Neric will do more than run—she’ll compete in the Cobra Energy Drink Ironman 70.3.

Yes, an iron-willed woman joining the Ironman. That’s Annie. Although she’s completed two short-distance triathlons before, this one is difficult. How painful? The “70.3” refers to 70.3 miles, spread out with a 1.9-km. swim, 90-K bike, and a 21.1-K run.

That’s tough. So is Annie.

“I’ve gained confidence after my experience in the relay last year,” she said. “With more running, biking and swimming, I told myself I’m ready. I was convinced by Coach Noy Jopson to join the individual event this year.”

Training for CamSur was laborious. “I had difficulty in biking because I was used to indoor cycling,” said Annie. “I fell twice before getting used to riding a road bike.

I had a hard time using biking shoes with cleats.”

TEAM REBORN is Annie’s group and they’re led by Ironman champion Noy Jopson as mentor/coach. Her other teammates are Dr. Raymund Bontol, Tenggoy Colmenares, Sef Miller and Jung Cases. “Our team started serious training only last May. Our schedule involves brick trainings and simulation trainings. We go to Shangri-La to swim; road bike from Liloan to Carmen. I continue to join runs in Cebu and Manila.”

Why join the Ironman? “Because it’s a prestigious competition and I’d like to experience competing with the pros. It helps me determine my limits,” said Annie, now 45 years old. “This is the ultimate. It keeps me young. It’s FUN! I also get to meet friends and gain new ones. My husband Jet will be there and I hope he can join next year. I hope my two sons will join me someday.

“I want to be an inspiration to the wives and mothers. In turn, they can be inspirations to their families and friends to pursue a life of healthy living. And to the single and younger ladies, I hope to be a good role model. I got into sports in my early twenties doing aerobics. Being a triathlete does not happen overnight. The earlier one starts, the better. It takes getting rid of the unhealthy lifestyle. It’s

a change of lifestyle – a healthier one!”

Is this training more difficult than the marathon? “Absolutely!” she said. “I had to train in three sports: swim, bike, run. To train for a triathlon, you need discipline, patience and time management skills. You also need to invest as each event has different equipment. I always think of it as an investment on my health.”

Finally, when I asked Annie if she’s intimidated by the swim portion (considering last year’s incident), she said, “I’m a bit scared but I just need to relax and focus on my strokes.

Like what my coach tells me, you can do any stroke just make sure you don’t drown. I also know they have more marshals. For this triathlon, I plan to be a finisher (eight hours cutoff) but doing my very best. Even if I come in last... I would only be the last winner!”

(More at www.pages.ph)