IT WAS way back in high school when I fell in love with sports. I tried anything that I could get my hands into—volleyball, tennis, swimming, table tennis, track and field and many others.
Unfortunately, I never had any formal training and competing was limited to intramurals.
I was the Iste of all trades, master of none. I believed knowing the basics and having fun playing were enough.
In early 2000 I jumped into the adventure race bandwagon, when it was all the rave joining urban races that did not require me to swim. In 2004, there was a dramatic decline in the number of women competing in extreme sports. I got invited many times but I declined several offers because I sucked at swimming. I tried to remedy that by getting swimming lessons but the sport started to die down.
When triathlon started to pick up again in 2010, I wanted to join again. But I realized that I need to start from scratch—training and buying the equipment. I am already married with two kids and priorities have long changed. I have made several attempts at forming a team, but it’s always easier said than done.
Then two weeks before the Vaseline men Xterra Off-road triathlon series, I got a call from John Pages, our columnist and the Sports Association of Cebu (SAC) president, inviting me to be part of the All-Sun.Star relay team for the event last March 2 in Liloan. He asked me if I can be part of the relay team with him doing the 36K bike, fellow sportswriter Edri Aznar doing the 9.4K run and me doing the 1.5K swim leg.
I almost told him to just look for someone else because I do not have the stamina. But he told me to “just enjoy the experience.”
I had just two weeks to prepare. And I was to do a discipline I was weak at. But then I told myself, when will I overcome this weakness? I am already 33, and I’ve been submitting myself to this weakness for a long time. So I started to train. But with having a full-time job, being a hands-on mother and wife to my supportive husband, Alvin, regular training was almost next to impossible.
I decided to manage my time well. Everywhere I went, my swim wear was in my bag so whenever I had a chance, I would hit the pool. And then I was faced with another dilemma—where can I get an affordable trisuit? The price ranged from P6,000 to P12,000 and I’d rather buy milk formula for my kids with that amount.
Luckily, at the suggestion of triathlete Lorhiz Echavez-Lopez and Jonathan Maximo, a dad to triathletes, I went to a shop in Colon that sold it for just P2,000. Now that I had the attire down, all I had to worry about was actually doing the swim.
With just a few days left, I started having nightmares. I feared that I wouldn’t finish and disappoint my team. This is not volleyball where you can stop playing halfway and ask for a substitute. And it did not help that there were people actually betting on me to fail.
Then came race day. I suddenly had cold feet but at the same time, I was excited. That was probably adrenaline talking. I had a feeling I’d finish in two hours but Pages still gave me reassuring words: “Take your time and enjoy the experience.”
While at the starting area, I was in the company of the country’s top triathletes. I stood in one corner with head bent. These were triathletes whom I have interviewed and I was scared that I would be laughed at. After all, there were people, not athletes, who were already making fun of me before the race. However, when these top triathletes— Matteo Guidicelli, Noy Jopson, Rochelle Tan, Love Casidsid and a lot of top triathletes —saw me, they gave me high fives and encouraging good lucks. That was one major confidence booster. And I needed that.
The starting gun was fired and we ran towards the water. That alone took a lot of my strength. I swam a bit, stopped on a buoy to catch my breath, swam again. I realized I was starting to get left behind. At first, I felt a sense of shame. But then again, I thought, I am able to do something a lot of people can’t.
When the marshals on kayaks approached, I thought they were coming to collect me, the last swimmer in the water. But it was the people from Habagat and Kayak Adventure Asia —Randy Su, Buzzy Budlong, the whole crew—who were instead cheering and encouraging me.
That lifted my spirits and I was determined to finish.
While I was walking towards the shoreline, still catching my breath, I looked at my watch to see I finished in 45 minutes. I couldn’t believe it. I was swept with a sense of fulfillment, erasing 10 years of doubting my capacity.
Well, the others have finished way ahead of me, but after finishing this daunting task, overcoming my fear, having to stop at every other buoy in that swim course, and all the obstacles I had to face, I was over the moon! This experience has taught me a lot of things and I gues I am a testament to the cliche’ “a quitter never wins.”
And I still can’t believe I’m saying this but, until the next triathlon.
(The author, a triathlete in training, covers triathlon, volleyball and tennis among other beats for Sun.Star Cebu)