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Training with Olympians, kissing a werewolf–all in a week’s work


BENCH’S latest endorser Taylor Lautner and Ben Chan

Over the past couple of weeks, I ran with a three-time Ironman Australian champion, swam with a Hungarian Olympic swimmer and kissed an American werewolf. How wonderful is that!

Technically, I didn’t run alongside Ironman champ Belinda Granger. She completed the recently held Cobra Ironman 70.3 in Cebu in an amazingly fast time of four-and-a-half hours. She was done and I was just finishing my bike leg.

Belinda has become a friend as we have participated in Ironman races over the years. She is a fantastic athlete and a wonderful person as well, cheering on the thousands of competitors to keep their energy levels up throughout the long race.

CEBU Ironman champions Bree Wee (2nd Place); Caroline Steffen (1st place); Belinda Granger (3rd place); David Charlton; Sea Princess; Chris McCormack (two-time Kona champion); fastest Filipino woman Ironman champ Monica Torres

After several months of leisurely training with Ironman couple coach Ani de Leon-Brown and Dan Brown, I was ready for my second full Cobra Ironman 70.3 race in Cebu. I’ve participated the past few years as part of Timex Team Valdés, but since this is the year I turn 50, I thought a solo race would be a good challenge.

Specialized bike

Covering the 1.9K swim, 90K bike and 21K run involves a lot of training hours. Knowing my weakest is the bike leg, I equipped myself with a specialized bike that was fitted perfectly for me by coach Andy Leuterio. But nothing beats saddle time, so many weekends were spent biking in Nuvali.

SUNLIFE head Riza Mantaring and Sea Princess (center) with Team Sunlife in Cebu Ironman

For the run training, our Friday girls’ gang with coach Ani does laps in our village, followed by a lengthy breakfast. Sometimes, brekkie is actually longer than the run. My Iron lady angels Gem Padilla-Thomas, Ge Santiago and Raeanna Cranbourne make sure I conquer “the list” by cutting my transition time.

Newton ambassador Doray Ellis is one of the fastest in the group, so she serves as my inspiration. With her as Newton ambassador is husband Mark Ellis, country manager of Fitness First Health Clubs in the Philippines.

Mark and Doray recently asked me to judge the Fitness First New You Achievement Awards, which recognize the health and fitness achievements of their members.

SUNLIFE and Timex endorsers Piolo Pascual and Sea Princess

The achievements are categorized into Health, Shape, Sport and Strength, with the overall winner being selected from the national category winners. The inspiring stories were truly so memorable, with some overcoming serious health issues and losing over 100 pounds.

As in all my races, I gave top priority to my outfit preparation, which is crucial for wonderful race photos throughout the swim, bike and run legs. I gave much thought to the best color combinations of my Speedo swim speed suit.

Chic factor

Upon completing registration and getting body marked, I headed to the Ironman Expo for some much-awaited shopping. First stop was the Rudy Project booth which offered helmets, tri-suits and bags. Rudy Project sunglasses have the perfect lens for overcast weather and the coolest chic factor that matched my colorful tutu skirt.

TIMEX brand manager Ivy Palencia flanked by Timex ambassadors Dennis and Tessa Valdes

Rudy Project head Gabriele Boschi told me about his newest venture, Paul & Shark, which recently opened in the East Wing of the new Shangri-La Plaza Mall.

As the official timekeeper of the race, Timex also had a booth at the Expo. For the fifth year in a row, Timex has been supporting several triathletes and relay teams. Celebrity Timex endorser Piolo Pascual did the bike leg for his relay team.

Timex Team Pangilinan had a strong finish, with dad Anthony Pangilinan completing the whole race while mommy Maricel did the swim leg with Chi running coach Lit Onrubia and Leana Carmona in her team.

GOODY girl Jenna Sy (in black) with their endorser Zsuzsanna Jakabos and the San Beda swim team

Timex brand manager Ivy Palencia told me that Apl.de.ap, who did the bike relay, used the Timex Ironman Tap during the race.

Wonderful show-biz pair Iya Villania and Drew Arellano also did some shopping at the Timex booth.

Sports earphones

Another brand that did well at the Ironman was Yurbuds, the number one sport earphone in the United States. Yurbuds never fall out of the ears and are an essential part of every athlete’s gear through the long, hard months of training. The best yurbuds athlete endorser is Pete Jacobs, who was gunning for a three-peat but was nipped in the bud and finished second.

RUDY Project couple Julie and Gabriele Boschi, Tessa and Dennis Valdes

With 35 countries and six continents represented in the event, this year’s Ironman is by far the best. I finished, thanks to the perfect, God-given, overcast but not stormy weather, but also thanks to elite triathlete Franz Baguio. I did manage to cut my transition time to 26 minutes, thanks to Rizzo Regis-Tangan.

No race is done until the after party is over. With my Cebu gang, we headed to Ibiza Bar in Mövenpick Hotel. The chill outdoor bar is such a cool venue. Our host Manman Osmeña entertained us with delicious food and ice cream.

There was also an after-party at the nearby Tiki Bar, with all the finishers in high spirits and hair-pulling action. Belinda had a great time and I can’t wait to see her again in the next Ironman.

SHANGRI-LA Resort Mactan GM Marco Vazzoler, Mildred Amon


Mermaid tail

On the swimming side of things, Hungarian Olympic swimmer Zsuzsanna Jakabos was in town recently and I got to go swimming with her. She is all of six feet tall, so I used a mermaid tail to try and keep up with her in the water, but she was still faster. Her coach, Ivan Petrov, gave me some noteworthy pointers to enable me to swim faster and more efficiently.

Zsuzsu has competed for her native country in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics. She has been touted as the most beautiful athlete of these games and the fairest in the Olympic realm. While competing in the 2012 Games in London, she attracted the attention of the media for her striking lipstick color and artistically polished nails.

Zsuzsu is in the country for the first time, for a collaboration between ROX and Goody Philippines, for a swimming clinic held at ROX High Street. She was also coaching the San Beda swim team for a week.

MILLET Mananquil, Nenita Lim, Lucy Torres-Gomez and daughter Juliana Gomez

She is an avid user of the trusted hairbrush and hair accessory brand, Goody, and she also promotes the Goody SlideProof line as the most suitable hair accessory for swimmers.

I ended my exciting week by kissing an American werewolf, Taylor Lautner. At an intimate dinner hosted by Bench king Ben Chan, the “Twilight” star and heartthrob Taylor enjoyed a cool evening with a selec and very privileged circle of friends.

Another global “benchsetting” milestone for the brand, Taylor’s arrival in Manila was to officially launch him as a “Benchsetter.”

Thanks to Bench and Ben, I got the most Instagram “likes” for my photo with Taylor!

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Tags: Belinda Granger , Ben Chan , Bench , Hungarian Olympic swimmer , Ironman Australian champion , Piolo Pascual , Taylor Lautner , Timex , Timex endorser , Zsuzsanna Jakabos

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