On June 3rd, the Philippines saw the very first full-distance Century Tuna Ironman take place in Subic. Over 1200 athletes, each with the goal to run through the banner, gathered with the hopes of calling themselves an Ironman at the end of the day.
A quick backstory:
The first Ironman race in the Philippines was held in Camarines Sur in 2009. There, only 560 athletes braved the famed 70.3 km swim-bike-run race. And, over the course of the next 10 years, Filipinos have grown an undying love for the long-distance multi-sport. Eventually, Ironman events grew in the Philippines, and now regularly attract participants from all over the world..
But behind the impressive athletes who put their lives on the line to finish, lies a special group of people whose little efforts contribute to the bigger Ironman picture. Here are some of them:
FAYE TOLENTINO – PHYSICAL THERAPIST
Being a triathlete requires your whole body working as a unit to endure the long miles under the sun – that’s where Faye Tolentino’s expertise comes in. As a veteran physical therapist for some of the country’s largest sporting events, Tolentino says there’s a distinct sense of fulfillment in seeing her clients cross the Ironman finish line.
“It’s a joyous feeling seeing the athletes cross the finish line. You know you’ve put in a lot of effort into their treatment no matter how small or big it is. You know, that in your own little way, that you’ve helped them in that race,” Tolentino says.
Often found juggling a long line of clients before race day, Tolentino says the effort is well worth it, “The athletes [usually] come back and thank me for the treatment and I tell myself wow.”
AMBET BANCOLITO & JEREMY GO – BIKE MECHANICS
If you’re passionate about cycling, chances are you’ve heard the names “Ambet” Bancolito and Jeremy Go at least once in your biking career. The two men are some of the most renowned bike mechanics in the country, and it would only be fitting they cater to Ironman’s finest racers.
For Jeremy Go, who’s been with Storck Bicycles for the last three years, tri-bikes have a special place in his heart and takes pride in being able to deal with them, “It’s always great feeling fixing these bikes. Some of them have really challenging problems. An Ironman race is always special because nowadays a lot of these bikes are proprietary and they have unique needs.”
Meanwhile, Ambet’s long clientele list dates back to 20 years ago when he first started his bike mechanic career. Now on his 9th year servicing Ironman triathletes, Bancolito says he’s plainly fulfilling his dreams. “Bikes have been my passion ever since I was a kid, and now I’m living it,” he says. “I tried every kind of bike there was – trying to find out what was wrong with them.”
At the end of the day, Ambet says there’s nothing than having athletes express their gratitude towards him, “I think the best feeling ever is hearing, “Ambet! Thank you for doing a job well done on my bike!”
WHIT RAYMOND – THE VOICE OF IRONMAN
His voice is a pleasant tone that triathletes racing in the region have come to recognize. More often than not, the sound of Whit’s energetic banter signals that the finish line is near – a subtle note to push a bit further. After all, who could ever forget the iconic “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” phrase?
But as a veteran host for Ironman races, Whit’s seen it all. From heartbreaking defeats, to triumphant finishes. In fact, he’s come up with his own piece of advice to anyone enduring the spirit-testing race, “When you’re hurting…just dig deep and remember all the loved ones that supported you. Keep that in your heart and you’ll reach the finish line.”
ANI DE LEON – BROWN – ALASKA IRONKIDS RACE DIRECTOR
An Ironman participant herself, Ani De Leon-Brown also plays a role as the race director for Alaska Ironkids. “Coach Ani”, as many call her, is a decorated tri-champion and mentor. She’s a 12x-time full-distance finisher, a multiple-record holder, and most significantly, she stands proud as the first Filipina to qualify for the Ironman Triathlon World Championships.
These days, De Leon-Brown is often seen focusing on creating Ironkids races – courses that are designed to challenge kids to push themselves past their limits. And ultimately, inspire them to reach for their dreams.Prior to this year’s Subic Ironman race was the Alaska Ironkids Aquathlon that saw nearly 400 participants cross the end line.
When asked what she enjoys best about being the Alaska Ironkids race director, she told PlayPH, “It’s seeing [the kids] all enjoying at the finish line and the camaraderie they build. When you see them afterwards, the kids have created this lifetime friendship with other racers.”
Overall, last weekend’s event was a success. With a majority of participants crossing the finish line, it only proves that Pinoys have the willpower to call themselves an Ironman. And while athletes continue to pursue that dream, rest assured the people mentioned above will be with them – every step of the way.