You may not know it, but there are plenty of Iron men and women lurking among us. They look like regular folk. The difference is they are probably a bit thinner, fitter and healthier than the rest of us mortals.

You might be surprised by who they are.

Last weekend, Cebu geared up for the 2013 Cobra Ironman 70.3 Philippines.  

But this triathlon wasn’t limited to just people in their 20s. People of all ages joined. This proves that you can do anything as long as you put your mind (And in this case, your body) to it.

Team Suarez and SonsLet me introduce you to Team Suarez and Sons.

Comprised of Gia Suarez for the 1.9km swim, Mike Fernan for the 90km bike and Marget Villarica for the 21km run, this team finished a respectable 36 in their bracket. They all have families and busy jobs, yet they still found the time to commit to this big event.

032: How did the team come together?

Mike: Prior to Ironman, I had just been biking on a mountain bike. But despite having no prior experience riding a road bike, my sister, Marget, convinced me to join Ironman in 2012.  We formed Team Fernan with my brother Manny as our swimmer and my sister Marget as our runner.  For 2013, Manny decided to go solo so Marget asked Gia Suarez to be our swimmer.

032: What was your time for your respective legs?

Gia: For the swim, 57 minutes and 58 seconds.

Mike: My time this year was 3 hours 20 minutes (bike).

Marget: For the run, I did it in 2 hours and 49 minutes. We did great! Each of us achieved a good time. We also finished far from the cut off time of 8 hours and 30 minutes.

032: Your team did the whole thing in 7:13:38. Were you happy with your personal time?

Marget: I was happy with my time, but there is always room for improvement. My time this year was more or less the same as last year. It was more difficult for me to train this year because I was busier prior to the event – more traveling and work.

Mike: Not really, I was hoping to improve my time this year, but it took me 6 more minutes from my 2012 time of 3 hours 14 minutes. I had a problem with my bike computer. I could not monitor my speed and cadence. Because of this I was not able to ride my target speed.

Gia: I was surprised with my time. In the pool, my regular time for a 2k swim is 60 minutes, but here in open water, I improved it to 57 minutes. It’s easier to swim in salt water because you are more buoyant, but the current and the crowd was a challenge.

Gia Suarez032: What was it like swimming with so many people?

Gia: It was difficult in the beginning then it progressively became easier. All the people in the starting line made it hard to create space for myself. When you are practicing in a pool, it’s easy to create momentum. In the Ironman, when someone hits you, it’s exhausting and difficult to get away from.  They call it the washing machine. There are just so many people in the water. How do you train for people kicking you?

You get it from joining marathons. Not something you can practice in the pool.

032: How were the conditions for the bike portion?

Mike: For Ironman 2013, we had to contend with riding on roads full of puddles from the heavy rain earlier that morning. We had the usual winds one would experience in riding on SRP, but the overcast shielded us from the scorching sun which we experienced last year.

Despite the marshals guarding the bike course, a few people still crossed the street, not intimidated by the fast bikes. The streets were better manned this year with very visible medics on the bike route as organize by medical team head, Dr. Peter Mancao.

032: The weather being what it was that day, overcast and no too hot, how was it for the run?

Marget: The weather was great. Perfect weather for the runners especially since most of us had to start mid-day.

When I was on my last 1k, I experienced something on my left foot. I initially thought I was about to get cramps, but luckily when I was just a few hundred meters away from the finish line, the cramps stopped. Good nalang.

These runs are very challenging, but offer a great experience. The tough times are when you approach the finish line. I just kept going and kept thinking of the family who were all waiting for me to finish.

Mike Fernan032: What did you guys do to train for the Ironman?

Gia: I had a coach. I would do 80 laps in a 25 meter pool. I started swimming 10 laps at a time then progressed to 20 and so forth. My coach changed my stroke. He said that what is important is how many meters you go in one stroke. Rather than moving your arms faster, move your arms more efficiently.

He had other tips like keep your head down. Keep it straight. You glide faster if you are flat. You become more aero dynamic. Make your body longer; it will make your body glide further.

I started with him in April, but it was light. I only had 10 sessions. I would only really train and swim by myself in the last 3 weeks before the big event.

Mike: I have been riding for about four years now. However, I started seriously training for the past 4 months.  This entailed two bike rides to the mountains of Busay on weekdays and 70-90 km bike rides north of Cebu on weekends. The rest of the days, I would be in the gym for 1.5 – 2 hours for core and endurance training.

Marget: I have been running for over three years now. But for the Ironman, I followed a training schedule and was assisted by my trainer/elite Christy.

But it was not as intensive as I would have wanted it to be because the training conflicted with my work and I did a lot of traveling.

There were days I would do speed work then I would do a long run once a week. I would run 4 to 5 times a week.

Marget Villarica032: How did it feel to finish?

Gia: Wow. First, relief. Before anything else, I felt relieved. Then… siempre, I was so happy.

Mike: I enjoyed the ride better than last year. I truly relished the experience of riding the streets of Cebu without any vehicles. The spectators cheering us on were a plus as well. I was able to enjoy it more because my experience from last year made me less anxious.  For the last 15 km, I was in better shape than last year doing sprints to the finish line.  I was better prepared this year.

Marget: Great! In the middle of the run, I would sometimes ask myself why I got into this. That’s when the doubt creeps in, but I overcame it by telling myself that I can do it. I can reach the finish line in good time. I just started imagining my family with all their smiles. I was so happy, proud and anxious.

These three have proven to be an inspiration to many of us. We thought it would be good to share their experiences with you. What they went through was something remarkable. Watch the video below. Not many of us can say, we’ve done the same thing.


Cobra Ironman 70.3 Cebu Aerial Coverage and Event Highlights 2013 from AeroEye Asia on Vimeo.

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