My story started four years ago at the finish line of Ironman Malaysia 2008 in Langkawi—a full-distance Ironman that involved a 3.8-kilometer open sea swim, a 180km bike race, and a 42km run, all within a 17-hour cut off. I trained almost 20 weeks for that race. On race day, it took me 17 hours and six minutes to cross the finish line.
Yes, I missed the cut off by a painful six minutes. They gave me the finisher’s medal, but I was unable to earn the distinction of being called an “Ironman.” Thus began an obsession that would take me four years to conquer.
For the uninitiated, the full Ironman is probably the most grueling endurance sport there is. It starts with a 3.8km swim, which is like swimming the length of EDSA from the Buendia intersection to Roxas Boulevard within a 2:15 period. Immediately after that, one has to mount a bike and ride for 180km. This is like biking from the Mall of Asia to the foot of Baguio in La Union. The cut-off for this leg is about eight hours. If one does not make it to the cut-off, he will be pulled out of the course and the day ends for him. Finally, after the tough swim and long bike ride, one caps the race with a full 42km marathon. This is equivalent to running from La Union to Pampanga. In the Philippines, the only official Ironman race is only a 70.3-miler and is sometimes called a half Ironman.
It is an extremely painful and exhausting endeavor for sure, but that’s what makes it appealing. It is the challenge of pushing yourself to the extreme limits of physical—and oftentimes even psychological—capacity. Once you cross the finish line, the announcer calls out your name and shouts: “You are an Ironman!” For hardcore triathletes, this is the ultimate confirmation that one is indeed a member of the rare breed of people who have completed the distance.