ROWENA Duarte greeted me with a bear hug and a lift. As I gasped for air, I knew then that in her next life, Rowena will be a weightlifter. In her present one, she’s a triathlete.

She has lost weight since I saw her last three months back. She had to watch her weight to be light on the bike, she said. She conditioned her body to ride 520 kilometers for three straight days.

Her “80 percent balanced nutrition, 20 percent exercise” worked. Along with 11 other bikers, Rowena completed the three-day, 520-K Giro d’Luca on May 23-25, 2014 in Bohol.

She has distinguished herself as being the only female participant to have completed the three stages. Some joined only one or two stages but Rowena pushed herself to achieve her goal to ride the full distance.

The Giro d’Luca 2014 was a bike event organized by Cebu-based triathlete Gianluca Guidicelli to celebrate his 52nd birthday: 10 kilometers for every year he’s been blessed to be alive. Ninety-one bikers from different tri teams signed up but only 12 completed the grueling distance.

Stage 1 covered 180K, Stage 2 some 190K and Stage 3 about 150K. Reel Bontol, one of the event coordinators, said the 520K distance could not be made precise because of technical problems encountered during the event. If the 12 finishers had fallen short of the 520K, it was only by a negligible few kilometers.


The biker would still have felt the same body pain and muscle soreness of a 500K or a 520K. For Rowena, the soreness extended down there and draining her bladder hurt very, very much. She described it in colorful Bisaya that would burn the ears of the prude.

Her thighs have become rock hard from the countless hours of swimming, running, biking, gym workouts, boxing and yoga. Rowena, who stands 5’4.5, has great legs and she turns heads when she runs in micro shorts.

Rowena went into triathlon only two years ago, at 38 years old. She rates herself as average, although she reaches the finish line way ahead of other male players. She trains with her male mates in the Team Tyts Bogdo (TTB). Tyts is pronounced “tights.”

The TTB is a team of strong men and during bike rides, Rowena lags behind them. She keeps up.

Her TTB mates joined the Giro d’Luca, too, but unlike her, did not complete the 520K. The Giro d’Luca was a fun ride and the participants could pick or quit any stage at their convenience.

For Rowena, the fun was in completing the entire 520K. She wanted to test her limits.

She said Stage 2 was difficult because she was already tired after Stage 1. At the prodding of Tabuelan Mayor Rex Gerona, another finisher, she suited up for Stage 2. At Stage 3, she only thought of finishing the remaining 150K and riding safe.

A single parent, Rowena thinks of her son and daughter when she bikes. Her competitiveness is kept in check by the thought of them. She cannot be reckless, she said over coffee and Herbalife shake last Friday. She’s with Herbalife, by the way.

This swimming-biking-running, this triathlon, it’s only for fun although it demands much of her time especially during weekend.

Reflecting on her Giro d’Luca achievement, Rowena said she felt empowered as a woman because she did what other men could not. “I’d like to see more women joining Giro d’Luca and finishing the distance ahead of men,” she said. Or any sports event, for that matter.

Reflecting on her statement, I recalled the bear hug and lift she gave me earlier. I hope she will not be lifting men, not in this lifetime or next.