Triathletes Globetrot in Pursuit of Ironman
More than 100 Filipinos and Philippine-based triathletes head off to Barcelona, Taiwan, and Langkawi to chase their Ironman dreams. Find out what motivates them, be inspired, and let’s wish them well!
With the right training, financial resources, and the will, triathlon gives you the chance to travel the world. This is what Philippine triathletes are discovering in their personal quest to be rightfully called an “Ironman,” once they cross the finish line of this grueling race consisting of a 3.8-km swim, a 180-km bike, and a 42-km run. Most professional triathletes finish this race in 8 to 9 hours, while age groupers follow after, mindful of the 17-hour cutoff from gun start.
Probably the biggest contingent from the Philippines are heading off to three Ironman races on the calendar—Ironman Barcelona in Spain and Ironman Taiwan, both on October 2; and Ironman Langkawi in Malaysia on November 12.
Meet some of them—from first-time Ironman participants to a mom with six Ironman finishes under her belt; and those who’ve trained for two months to two triathletes attempting two Ironmans within six weeks. Find out how they kept going through months of training amid day jobs and family to prepare for triathlon’s ultimate test.
Click/tap on the tabs below to read more about the Philippine delegation competing in Ironman Barcelona, Ironman Taiwan, and Ironman Langkawi.
October 2, 2016
Weather: Ocean temperature is comfortable for swimming, though wetsuits may be required. Outdoor temperature is 22°C and 25°C.
69 number of parks and gardens
Famous residents: Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, Salvador Dali, and Antonio Gaudi
New route changes: 3-lap run includingthe neighboring villages of Pineda del Mar and Santa Susanna to picturesque Calella. The 2-lap bike is one of the fastest in Ironman Europe.
40: number of qualifying slots for the 2017 World Championship in Kailua-Kona up for grabs.
Top triathletes in 2015: David Plese of Slovenia who finished in 8:02:20 and Yvonne Van Vlerken of the Netherlands with 8:46:44.
Mark Bustamante, 40, Fitness First team; Barcelona is his first Ironman attempt
Profession: security design and manufacturing
Years doing triathlon: 4
Most memorable international triathlon? Ironman 70.3 in Da Nang, Vietnam in May 2016. I used every ounce of will power just to finish that race.
Months spent training for IM : 3
Target finish time for IM: After all the work, it would be such a privilege just to finish.
How do you balance your time for work, training, and family?
As much as I tried to fit everything into my life, there were days or weeks where I had to compromise. But what I try to keep constant is family.
Why did you choose Ironman Barcelona?
IM Barcelona chose me. Everything came together: a big group of friends to train with, a fast course and finally, a place where my wife and family can enjoy.
Which part of the race course in Ironman are you looking forward to? the bike leg: Cool conditions with a beautiful course!
What is your biggest challenge in this race? the 42k run, after a 3.8-km swim and a 180-km bike
Biggest lesson learned: How to value and prioritize. It’s a juggling act for us age groupers. But the moment you realize what’s important, then I think you have things covered.
Marvin Del Rosario, 40, Fitness First team; Barcelona is his first Ironman attempt
Profession: entrepreneur and property manager
Years doing triathlon: 3
Most memorable international triathlon? Ironman 70.3 in Da Nang, Vietnam in May 2015. It was one of my toughest races due to the scorching heat. But it was also the first time I finished in under six hours with a time of 5:58.
Months spent training for IM : 2
Target Finish Time: To finish
What specific training routines are you focusing on?
Doing long, relaxed swims with a wetsuit.
How do you balance your time for work, training, and family? I am pretty lucky because I have my own time. My typical day is early morning training until 11 a.m. Then work. I am home by the time my girls arrive from school and we have an early dinner. This allows me to sneak in a quick swim. After the swim, my wife and I have our quiet time together.
Why did you choose Ironman Barcelona?
Barcelona stood out since it’s held late in the year ensuring cooler weather. My wife and I travel around this time so it became the perfect destination race. This year, I also turned 40 and we are celebrating our 10 years of marriage.
Which part of the race course are you looking forward to?
I love to bike; it’s my preferred and strongest leg. The route is along the Mediterranean so it should be very scenic.
What challenges have you overcome?
After a long vacation abroad with family, I became quite unfit. I needed to catch up as I was doing the Cobra Ironman 70.3 in Cebu in August. I had a disappointing Cebu race, and even the idea of doing Barcelona was in jeopardy. But after deliberation and advice from coach Ani (de Leon Brown), my good friend and mentor Maiqui Dayrit, plus sincere friends, they just wouldn’t allow me to quit. Looking back, my Cebu race was the best thing that happened. It allowed me to reset, reestablish my goals, and focus on training. It taught me to “ignore the noise.”
What is your challenge on race day?
I have an unusually high sweat rate, so I need to be diligent enough to hydrate and stay on top of my nutrition plan.
Biggest lessons learned:
Take it a day at a time. Trust your program and come race day, just execute it. Mentally: Ignore the noise. It’s going to be a long day, problems may arise, but you just keep moving forward. Remember to pray and be thankful to God for the blessing of being able to do this.
Alex Isip, 43, T12 Camelbak team, Barcelona is his second Ironman attempt after finishing IM Melbourne 2015
Profession: car restorer
Years doing triathlon: 6
Months spent training for IM: 9
Target finish time: sub-12 hours
How did you prepare for Barcelona? I was focused on bike training. I start training at 6:30 a.m. so I can go to work after.
Why IM Barcelona? As team captain, it was a decision of the group. Eleven members of our team will go. The race course is mostly flat.
What part of the race course are you looking forward to? I am most excited about the swim. I want to have a good time.
What challenge do you need to overcome on race day? My biggest challenge is the 42-km run, which is the last leg when mental and physical fatigue can set in.
Biggest lesson learned? I have learned that it is best to train with a team because it makes things easier. You cannot do it on your own. It is good to have your teammates push you.
Joey Marcelo, 43, Sante Barley team; Barcelona is his second IM attempt after finishing IM Melbourne 2014
Years doing triathlon: 4
Most memorable triathlon: Ironman Melbourne 2014. It was my first Ironman and I wasn’t able to complete the training given by my coach. The race tested my endurance and I was very happy with my strong finish.
Months spent training for IM: all year round
Target finish time: 13 hours
How did you prepare? I focused on the swim, because it will be a challenge to swim in a wetsuit. I am not a [naturally gifted] swimmer and the currents seem to be strong.
How did you balance your time with training? I’m not required to go to the office in the morning, so I go to work after tri training outdoors or in the gym. My top five priorities are God, Business, Family, Ministry and Myself, which means my triathlon [training]. Anything apart from these is considered a distraction.
Why IM Barcelona? When my teammates and I compete abroad, we make it a race-cation. Our partners take care of the itinerary and we go sightseeing after the race. This will be the first time for me and my wife to go to Barcelona, and because it’s my birthday month this October.
Biggest lesson learned? Planning and preparation are important. You don’t decide to do Ironman one day without training for it.
Enrico Menichetti, 35, REVV team; Barcelona is his second Ironman attempt after Ironman Arizona 2015
Profession: business executive
Years doing triathlon: 4
Most memorable triathlon: Ironman 70.3 in Mallorca, Spain because I got to race with my brother for the first time.
Months spent training for IM: 4 months
Target finish time: The best that I can do.
How did you prepare for Barcelona? I stuck to my training plan and get my target mileage. Closer to race day, I am focused on preparing mentally for it. When I get to the race, it won’t matter anymore how much extra percent fitness level I have. So I visualize and mentally get to a state where I don’t doubt myself.
How did you balance your time with training? I have a full-time job and I travel a lot, so I plan my weekends, and find ways to train around my meetings and work. My training starts at 5 a.m. and I get to the office by 10 a.m. Then I train in the evening. My social life suffered most, with friends and my girlfriend asking when they can see me again.
Why IM Barcelona? My family is in Belgium, so they can come over and watch me race. I see them only once a year, so this will be special for me.
What are you looking forward to in Barcelona? The run, because it is where I find my strength. Spain is also known for its beautiful oceans and we will be running and biking by the seaside.
Biggest lessons learned: Consistency in training. You need to train every day so that your body will get used to the load and it will help you manage fatigue.
Jose Luis Moreno, 45, Polo Tri team; Barcelona is his 1st Ironman attempt
Years doing triathlon: 6
Most memorable triathlon: Ironman 70.3 in Honu in 2013 and the Cobra Ironman 70.3 in Cebu 2013 where I finished in 5(h):30 (m).
Months spent training for IM: 8
Target finish time: Anything under 13 hours, would be nice.
In the homestretch, what did you focus on? I got lots of rest to repair my muscles and ate properly
How do you balance your time with training?
I knew that in training for this race, something had to give—either work, family, or social life. I allocated my mornings to training.
Why IM Barcelona? Barcelona is a relatively faster course, plus the weather is good, and bingeing on Spanish food after the race!
Which part of the race course are you looking forward to? The run, because it seems like a fast one. Once I’m off the bike, which I consider the most challenging, I will only rely on myself to get to the finish line.
What challenges have you overcome? Mostly health issues. I got sick for a few weeks during training.
Biggest lesson learned: Anything can be achieved through hard work and a positive mind set.
Keith Peralta, 42, Sante Barley team; Barcelona is his 2nd Ironman attempt after finishing Ironman Arizona 2015
Years doing triathlon: 6
Months spent training for IM: 9
Target finish time: sub-11 hours. In Barcelona, I hope to break the fast record for the Philippines.
How do you balance your time? Eight hours of sleep are important. I sleep by 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. so I can have the energy to do everything. I have three kids, aged 12, 10, and three. It’s a must to spend time with them. I also run a business.
How did you prepare for Barcelona? I wanted to improve on my bike in order for me to run better. I ramped up my mileage on my bike rides, training indoors twice a week, then at Clark [in Pampanga] once a week. I went from 120 (kms) to 140, then 160 to 180, and 200 kms. Then I tapered.
What were some of your challenges? Last year, I was injured in a race and it took me four months of therapy to get back in condition. I had to train harder, while spending time with family and on the business. On the race course I plan to discipline and pace myself. I hope I do well.
Robert Jonah Rivera, 40, Sante Barley team; Barcelona is his 3rd Ironman attempt after finishing Ironman Melbourne 2014 and Ironman Arizona 2015
Profession: manager of pre-owned car dealership
Years doing triathlon: 5 years
Most memorable triathlon: Ironman Melbourne in 2014 which was my first Ironman. I finished it in decent time.
Months spent training: 3
Target finish time: “sub-Jonah” which is under 13(h):04(m)
How did you train for Barcelona? I focused on bike training and mileage, and practicing nutrition for the race. My typical day starts at 5 a.m., training outdoors. I’m done by 8:30 a.m., and head to the office from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. I go straight home and have dinner with my family, which is non-negotiable. Saturdays and Sundays are for more team training and long runs at 4 a.m. The rest of the time is spent with family.
What’s your motivation? I am doing it to give glory to God. He blessed me with strength and ability, so I use these to honor Him.
What challenges did you encounter in training? I trained for only three months. But I race year round, so I count that as preparation. On race day, you never know how strong the current is on the swim or if there are headwinds on the bike. You just have to tough it out.
Biggest lessons learned: I have learned to have more patience and to be more disciplined. I appreciate my family more because I am away from them too often.
WHEN INJURY STRIKES
Richard Santiago, 44 of Camelbak team; he finished IM Melbourne 2015 in under 12 hours. Barcelona would have been his second Ironman attempt. But with barely two weeks to go, he unfortunately encountered a vehicular accident on a taper ride in Clark, Pampanga. He’s taken this in stride and will continue his trip to Spain to support the team.
Years doing triathlon: 7
Most memorable triathlon: Xterra Maui (Hawaii) 2012 . It was my first world championship.Malalakas ang participants. Even the 60-year-old women were faster than me!
Months spent training: 6
How did you prepare for Barcelona? My preps included long bike rides and long runs. I trained from 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. on weekdays. Weekend training was more distance-based.
How did you balance your time with training? I learned to delegate. In our Monday meetings we discussed and assigned the tasks needed to be done. My wife is also a triathlete, so there are no problems when I tell her that I have to go out to train.
How did you get into the accident? It happened in Clark last September 18. I was on my bike when a car pulled out from the late to overtake in front of me. The car smacked right into my bike, sending me to the ground. I incurred a scaphoid fracture, so my left arm had to be in a cast for eight weeks and I have limited range of motion; and a fractured 7th rib.
How did you feel about missing IM this year? When my doctor told me I can’t race, you couldn’t imagine my emotion. Depression struck. But with the continued support and love of my wife Michelle, family, teammates, and friends, I realized I’m still blessed.
Next steps: It’s still a go for Barcelona. I will happily support the Philippine contingent. I hope to recover fast and see results this December. By then, I can plan my Ironman for next year. I have registered for Cape Epic, an eight-day mountain bike race in March 2017 in South Africa.
Biggest lessons learned: I learned to strike a balance between training and family, while making sure that the business is not left behind. (After the accident:) Train indoors during taper weeks or two weeks before the race.
October 2, 2016
Ilha Formosa (“Beautiful Island”) is how the Portuguese called Taiwan when they first saw it from their ships 500 years ago.
Cuisine: A mix of traditional dishes from China’s different provinces. Among the specialties are hot stuffed dumplings, sliced noodles, liver soup, oyster omelets, and exotic dishes such as snake meal and snake wine.
Ironman Taiwan is held in Penghu, also known as the Pescadores Islands, located southwest of the Taiwan Strait. The area is famous for its beautiful beaches, glorious temples, and the traditional Taiwanese-style homes with coral walls.
Top triathletes in 2015: Domenico Passuello of Italy who topped at 8:25:54, and Dede Griesbauer of the US with 9:20:23
Nylah Bautista, 38, Velo Trix and Alveo Ayala Land team; Taiwan is her second Ironman attempt after finishing IM Langkawi 2015
Years doing triathlon: 4
Most memorable triathlon: It’s Ironman Langkawi, one of the five toughest IM races. That was the time I felt my body would give up but with the support of family, the spectators, and other racers, I drew my energy from the crowd and had a strong finish
Months spent training: 8
Target finish time: Finish strong
How did you train for IM? I focused on the bike and run. That is where the test of endurance comes in.
Why IM Taiwan? I have been there and I love the culture, the food, and also the vibe— so why not turn it into a race-cation? Exploring Asia by racing is my thing.
What challenges did you overcome in training? It was getting sick. I had to protect myself from colds and flu. I didn’t push myself when I didn’t feel well, and remembered that the reason why I do triathlon is to be healthy.
Biggest lessons learned: I have respect for the sport. It entails a lot of discipline, hard work, and determination. I used to be asthmatic and a non-sports person, but if you find your passion, there will be no stopping you. Women have an innate endurance for anything: sports, work, relationships.
James Rosca, 46, Greenhills Tri Team; Taiwan is his first Ironman attempt
Years doing triathlon: 4 years
Most memorable triathlon: Cobra Ironman 70.3 Cebu 2012. I only learned to swim that year and my training for the other disciplines was minimal. My teammates weren’t sure I’d finish. But I did, in 7(h):52(m).
Months spent training: 12
Target finish time: under 17 hours
What did you focus on in training for IM? Doing more mileage in the swim, bike, and run.
How did you balance your time with training?
I work from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., so on some days I swim at 6 a.m., or bike, or run from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. On other days, I do my training from 8:00 p.m. to midnight, after dinner with the family. I learned to balance my weekend. I train for a half a day. We go to church together on Saturday or Sunday, and have at least two family meals together.
Why IM Taiwan? It’s near the Philippines, so I there’s minimal acclimatization and travel time. Based on the map, the bike course is relatively easier. This is my first Ironman and I want to make sure I can finish and enjoy it. Taiwan has good food.
November 12, 2016
Langkawi’s official name: Langkawi Permata Kedah, or
“Jewel of Kedah”
40: number of qualifying slots for the 2017 World Championship in Kailua-Kona
The IM Langkawi course, regarded as one of the world’s toughest, starts from the white beaches of Pantai Kok with a two-loop triangle out-and-back course, followed by a two-loop bike course towards the rolling hills of Datai and the fringes of Kuah town.
Top triathletes in 2015: Mike Aigroz of Switzerland who finished at 8:52:02 and two-time Langkawi pro champion Diana Reisler of Germany, with a 9:37:06 finish.
Laarni A. Paredes, 37, Team Herbalife; Langkawi is Laarni’s 7th Ironman attempt
Profession: digital content manager
Years doing triathlon: 8
Most memorable triathlon: The Ford Ironman World Championships in Kona in 2010. I finished in 14(h):25(m). Every triathlete I know dreams of racing there. I was just two years into triathlons at that time, so you can just imagine how overwhelmed I was. I felt very proud to reach that level in a short time, but I also remember feeling very inadequate, surrounded by true world-class athletes, where even the age groupers are insanely fast. It was a totally humbling experience.
Months spent training for IM: I keep myself fit throughout the year, but crunch-time is always 10 weeks before Ironman.
Target finish time: 13 hours or less
What specific training routines have you focused on? Ironman is all about consistent effort throughout the race day. I do a lot of steady, long workouts like long rides, runs, and swims. I’m a pretty decent runner; my run takes care of itself. But biking is not very natural to me so I bike a bit more hills because Langkawi is rolling terrain
How do you balance your time for training? My routine is waking up at 6 a.m., preparing breakfast for my family. I take care of my little girl until the nanny arrives at 9:30 a.m., then I go to my home office to work. I have worked from home for the last 12 years. It’s one of the biggest factors why I am still able to train and keep a close eye on my family. I peel myself away from the computer around 5 p.m., then I train for up to 1.5 hours. When work is not so hectic, I take a break and swim for about an hour, then return to work. When the nanny leaves at 6:30 p.m., I have dinner with the family, prepare my little girl for bed, do the dishes.
Why IM Langkawi? Despite others saying it’s a tough and scorching hot course, I like the food, the people, and it’s relatively inexpensive to race there. It’s also where I first got my first-ever Ironman finisher medal in 2009, and where I qualified for Kona in 2010.
What challenges have you overcome? I work anywhere from 40-60 hours a week, even during weekends, so that’s a huge challenge for me. And I insist on being a hands-on mom, that’s why we’ve kept our nanny a stay-out. I intend to keep tri-ing for as long as I can, but taking care of my kid, and maybe even having more – is just a phase. In a few years she’ll grow up and be more independent. Someday I will have more time to train and race many more Ironmans.
Which part of IM Langkawi are you looking forward to? I can’t say I’m really looking forward to it, but I like the run part because, it’s one discipline away from the finish line. I get to discover a lot about how deep I can still dig. I know I’m a strong-willed person, but there’s no other time I get to feel that than when I am in an Ironman run. Whenever I was truly close to giving up, I would always find something in me to keep going. I go on running, or walking, just really hobbling, and dragging my feet, until I get to the finish line.
What is your biggest challenge on race day? Finding the right pace. I don’t want to go too slow (I might lose time) or too fast that I’ll end up doing a walkathon on the run.
Biggest lessons learned: Training for an Ironman is a very time-consuming, tiring, and expensive endeavor. I often talk to myself: “Look I know you’re tired, but your next article won’t write itself; or your four-year-old can’t read that bedtime story by herself, but you have to find the energy for other things in your daily life.”
Carlo Maniebo, 27, Team Herbalife; for this consistent podium finisher in his age group, Langkawi is his first Ironman attempt
Years doing triathlon: 2
Months spent training for IM: 3
Target finish time: Just to finish.
What did you focus on training for IM? I focused on bike climbs because of the terrain that I will tackle in Langkawi.
Why IM Langkawi? It’s in Asia, so malapit lang. It’s my first time to race abroad. I am excited for the run because I want to see kung kaya pa ng legs ko ang takbuhan.
What was your typical training day like? A typical day is waking up at 5 a.m. for a one hour swim, or for a 21-km bike. From Tuesdays to Sundays I devote two to three hours for training.
Biggest lessons learned: The value of discipline, consistency, and hard work. I am the youngest in our team and the veterans tell me na mag-focus lang, and to have consistency in training kasi ’yun ang importante.
TWO IRONMANS IN SIX WEEKS
Meet two triathletes who dare to push their limits—Reujenson Lista, 47, and Retzel Orquiza, 36, who will do both Ironman Taiwan and Ironman Langkawi this year.
Reujen Lista, 47, Gold Tri team; Taiwan and Langkawi will be his fifth and sixth Ironman-branded race attempts
Profession: business development/ rockstar
Years doing triathlon: 6
Most memorable triathlon: That would be Ironman 70.3 Camarines Sur in 2010. I didn’t know anyone or anything. I just winged it and finished in 6(h):42(m). Also my first Ironman Langkawi 2014 where doctors said I almost died. I spent a night in ICU in Langkawi and a week in Makati Medical Center. I finished that race in 13(h):42(m).
Months spent training for IM: 6
Target finish time: I just want to finish.
What made you decide to do both IM Taiwan and Langkawi, just weeks apart? If there was an Ironman weekly, I would do!
What’s your strategy to be able to finish these two races well? Just enjoy.
What specific training routines are you focused on? Speed drills and time trials.
How do you balance your time for training? My usual day starts at 6 a.m. when I train for two hours depending on the program; then I go to work, then train again.
Why IM Taiwan and IM Langkawi? Because it’s there. I intend to finish 12 Ironmans to qualify for the Legacy so I can do Ironman Kona world championships someday.
Which part of the race course in these Ironmans are you looking forward to? The run, because I know I can walk it.
Biggest lessons learned: If you love [triathlon], no matter what the challenges are, you will prevail. The race is just a dessert, the main course is the training and the journey. If it’s easy, then it’s not an Ironman. I learned that I am still crazy enough to do this, again, and again, and again.
Retzel Orquiza, 36, WU Crew; Ironman Taiwan and Ironman Langkawi will be his fifth and sixth Ironman-branded race attempts
Profession: IT consultant
Years doing triathlon: 12
Most memorable triathlon: The Xterra off-road triathlon world championships in Maui in 2011. I earned a slot because of my 2nd place finish in the Cebu qualifier. I raced with the best in the world in under four hours, and I spent three weeks in perhaps the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to.
Weeks spent training for IM: 14 weeks
Target finish time: 11 hours and 56 minutes
What specific training routines have you focused on? Long bike rides; long bricks.
What made you decide to do both IM Taiwan and Langkawi, just weeks apart? Doing both races will entail only one training block while getting two Ironman races in for the Kona legacy.
What’s your strategy to be able to finish these two races well? Getting the mileage and key workouts done for the first race, while being able to recover and rebuild for the next one.
How do you balance your time for training? On weekdays, I do short workouts before and after work. On weekends, I do a long bike on Saturday mornings and a long run on Sunday mornings. I am done by lunch to get some family time after.
Why did you choose these two Ironman races? Taiwan and Langkawi don’t take up too much travel time, and they are the “cheapest” races for Pinoys.
Why is this special to you? Long-distance racing is a means to take a vacation to places I’ve never been to. Since I’ve done a couple already, I’m aiming for a Kona legacy slot in the next four years.
Which part of the race course in these Ironmans are you looking forward to? It’s the bike leg since it’s the longest discipline (in terms of time). It will make or break my race if I don’t hit my targets.
What do you think will be your biggest challenge on race day itself? The biggest challenge for me has always been the swim. I don’t swim a lot.
Biggest lesson learned: The value of rest and recovery to avoid getting sick and injured.