CLARK, Philippines — Three months of learning and training have all came down to this: swim 600 meters, bike 30 kilometres, and then run 5 kilometres to get to the finish line of their first triathlon.
Even before the race began the three started experiencing the dreaded pre-race nerves. Amanda said, “On they way here, I was really masungit. I wasn’t in the mood to socialize. I was really grumpy because of all the thoughts in my head.” For Ton, the stress started to make itself felt in his lower back, “Three days ago I felt a sudden pain in my lower back. I was sitting with my family for dinner when all of a sudden ‘Uhhh!’ I didn’t do anything. I didn’t train that day. So I was like ‘Why is this happening?”
The nerves carried through to the swim start. Amanda tried to focus as much as she could while Ton & Juls started putting on their game faces.
With a signal from the race directors, they each jumped into the pool in their respective waves. Amanda was with Iya Villania and Jennylyn Mercado in the female 25 to 29 age group. Ton & Juls were together in the male 25-29 age group.
They swam down a 50 meter pool, did 6 laps, zig-zagged from one lane to the next, then jumped out of the water, went back to the starting lane and did 6 laps again. Ton said, “ I didn’t think it would be this tough. It was hardcore seeing everyone go past you and the waves coming towards me.”
In training, the three were fairly comfortable doing the distance, but when you add 10 to 20 other people swimming altogether in a tight space, the swim leg can be daunting.
Juls put it this way, “You can be in that water with everyone all around you. You can be thrown off. You can be pushed. There’s nothing else you can do but keep swimming.”
A little shaken by the swim, Amanda, Ton and Juls all jumped out of the pool to run to transition and get ready for the bike leg. They had to do 2 loops of 15k each on the smooth roads of Clark and Fontana.
One of those loops was an uphill portion called “The Wall” and all the participants that day found this portion challenging. Amanda said, “The most taxing part of the race was the second uphill. I was averaging 19 kph which was really slow in my opinion and I was tempted to get off and just run with my bike. But then again, I’m here for the challenge. I’m here to push myself further.”
As Amanda said, the spirit of triathlon is never about having it easy, it’s all about digging deep and finding a reason past the pain to keep on going. All three put stickers on their bikes to remind them of the ideas that inspired them and the people they were doing this triathlon for.
For Juls one of these was the date he got rescued after being kidnapped “I told myself I’d try to live a fuller, more exciting, more fulfilling life. And I wanted it to inspire other people.”
For Amanda it was her sister “I added my sister because just recently she had an operation for her tumor and we were going through some rough patches over the last few months. I could have lost my sister. That sense of gratitude, I wrote that down in a small sticker on my bike.”
For Ton is was his aunt “I decided right then and there to dedicate my first triathlon to my auntie Dayday (Joseph-Davic, former national swimmer and traithlete) who passed away from breast cancer. And she was doing triathlons before it was cool. I guess I wanted to write those things down so that when I look down on my bike, I see what inspires me and what’s been inspiring me from the start.”
After 30 kilometres, Amanda Ton and Juls hopped off their bikes for the last 5k run to the finish. By the run leg, the triathletes started to feel fatigue setting in as well as the heat of the mid-morning sun.
Nearing the end of the run, all three looked were feeling the unique mix of emotions that endurance athletes experience: tired and happy, scared and determined, feeling the finish line getting close but focused on just putting one foot in front of the next.
All three had a few surprises waiting for them in the last kilometer of the run. For Amanda, it was Gameplan executive producer Jake who met her and ran the last kilometer with her.
For Ton, it was his younger brother and father. “Just the fact that I can see my dad who’s a bit older but still tries to keep healthy. He inspires me a lot by doing what he does.”
And for Juls, it was Amanda and Ton who went back for him.
As they got to the finish line, all three were filled with emotions built up from 3 months of training, hoping, and dreaming.
Juls said, “The very last part, when I was finishing my run, the last stretch for me was the cherry on top. That was the moment I was looking forward to ever since I started.
And that last push was not just for me but for Jake, Amanda, Ton, for my girl friend, for my family, for all the things I’ve been living for.”
Amanda said, “I just burt into tears. It was such an emotional experience.”
Ton said it for all of them, “When I crossed that finish line, I feel like, everything I’ve been feeling for the past three months came out. I was like here we go, this is it. I finished it. I’m a triathlete.”
So how does it feel at the end of that road, across the finish line tape? Juls said, “Finishing the race is a beautiful high.” Amanda feels relieved and satisfied. “I did my best. I left everything out on the course and with that I’m very happy.” And Ton feels that high that comes with challenging yourself and accomplish something, “I’m glad I did it. I feel like I can do so many things after this.“
For new triathletes, Ton, Amanda, and Juls it seems like this is just the beginning. And that’s the Gameplan! -Rappler.com
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