Monthly Archives: July 2009

My Ironman World Championships Race Story


 Ani Karina Sarabia de Leon

The Goal: Finish Line at Alii Drive

The Goal: Finish Line at Alii Drive

My Ironman World Championships Race Story (as written for Metro Active) Today I was able to achieve my lifelong dream.  I know that not many people get to say that.  I officially became an Ironman World Championships participant—I definitely know not very many people get to say that either. Treading the waters of Kailua-Kona Bay minutes before the race start, it almost felt like I was still watching one of those videos that I had seen hundreds of times…except for the fact that now, the giant inflatable Gatorade bottle was right beside me, and I was about to swim with a big mass of people—1,800 strong and unbelievably able bodies to be exact.  It felt surreal. How did I get here, in the beautiful Big Island of Hawaii, qualified to join the greatest competition known to my sport, the Everest that all triathletes aspire to? Everything that led up to this moment suddenly flashed in my mind.  My first efforts at swimming freestyle with the help of Coaches Bernie and Noel at the U.P. pool.  My first ride in the countryside on a borrowed road bike.  My first frustrated attempts at running.  My first triathlon competition.  My long stint as a national athlete.  My countless hours of training and racing, and with it, all my career ups and downs, triumphs and disappointments, precious friends gained, lessons learned the hard way, and literally all the blood, sweat and tears that I spilled to get to where I am now.  It was an incredible journey, and one that I treasure as much as the destination itself. The cannonball fired by the US Navy to signal the race start jolts me back to reality immediately, and a mass of world-class triathletes jostle frantically for position in the water.  All that pent-up energy from months and months of preparation and anticipation are instantly unleashed and I cannot begin to describe the chaos of it all.  These were all warriors hungry for battle, and I am right there with them.  Amazingly, after a few hundred meters, I feel relaxed and it feels like any other race, and for the moment, I forget the fact that I am in the world championships.  Despite the non-stop aggression going on around me all the way to the end of the 3.8km swim, I settle into a good rhythm.  I get out of the azure waters thoroughly primed for the toughest legs still ahead: the 180km bike and the 42.2km run.  I had done my homework, and I wasn’t completely terrified.  Just a little bit…. The pros who had done this race a couple of times had forewarned me about the powerful winds which were notorious for blowing away athletes off the course.  They weren’t kidding.  Just like any typical triathlete, I had set personal time goals for my race. As I rode further out, I had a sinking feeling that I was not going to meet my target for the bike.  The winds were so strong and I felt horribly unequipped to maneuver my way through it.  My tires were literally bouncing off the road with each blast that the seas and lava fields blew in my direction. I couldn’t even let go of my handlebars long enough to drink from my bottle or to down an energy gel. I was getting tired—more mentally than physically.  I was sadly aware that I was not 100% in control of the situation.  I was fighting so hard to stay in the race, and I went in and out of it so many times.  What people don’t realize about Ironman distance racing is that it is such a long day that your attention span and your focus will inevitably wane.  I knew this of course, but that didn’t prevent it from happening.  Fortunately, I also knew that even it you get into a really bad patch, you could snap out of it and get a second wind again as if nothing happened.  I finally complete the bike leg, with much relief that I could put the winds of the Big Island behind me, and also that I didn’t suffer any crashes or mechanical problems. Now a 42.2km marathon on its own is enough to intimidate a normal person, but as I looked at my fellow competitors, this didn’t seem to bother them one bit.  It was just another day at the office.  I took my cue from them, and focused on the task at hand.  A good triathlon coach once told me, even if you are running 42km, just concentrate on the one square kilometer in front of you.  This proved to be a real good piece of advice, and as I passed mile marker by mile marker, I quietly gave myself a pat on the back.  The spectators all over the race course gave us such wonderful positive energy and this helped me move a little bit faster.  My trusty support crew of two, Patrice and Joel wrote a note for me at the motivational corner which read “Philippines Loves U,” and I choked back my emotions upon reading it.  It fired me up even more. Everyone was feeling the heat (I later learned that it reached 40C) especially towards the Energy Lab but that didn’t affect me so much.  I was hopeful till almost the very end that I would make it to my personal target of sub-12 hours.  But then when I hit the last 2 miles and realized that I needed to run two 5+ minute miles, I ditched the whole thing and just planned to enjoy myself and savor the final minutes.  Patrice had been given specific instructions to 1) find a pole to attach to the flag, 2) hand me the flag on Hualalai Road, and he had been alone in that corner waiting for me for almost two hours.  And upon seeing him I could only shout “give me my flag!!!” because I had been repeating that mantra to myself for hours by then.  I didn’t forget to thank him after the race.  But right now I was focused on seeing that finish chute, and I could finally hear the music and Mike Riley’s booming voice on the speakers. The last few hundred meters are indescribable.  I was already sobbing and I had to wipe my wet face before I hit the lights on the carpet.  The noise from the crowd was deafening but I had played those final seconds countless times in my mind and I knew what I had to do next.  I proudly waved the Philippine Flag to everybody, in its debut here on Ironman World Championships grounds, and it was beautiful. Race Day (5) I wanted to show it on behalf of all the people back home who had been waiting for this moment just like me.  I blew a kiss, took a low bow and thanked the Goddess Pele silently for teaching me a lesson in humility but at the same time being kind enough to grant me a PR. I raised the flag once again and proceeded to let myself be embraced by two Filipina catchers, Lovette and Sally, who had chosen to volunteer and wait for me to arrive. I let the tears flow freely.  I had done my job and I was glad.  My lifelong dream had come true. for more pictures, you can visit

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Book Review: The Perfect Mile

Book Review: The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb

Ani Karina S. de Leon


For those of us living in a country wherein the metric system is the standard for measuring distance, we may not have any idea nor even care about the significance of the mile in the history of athletics.   Only well informed or serious runners would probably be able to give you the exact number for determining whether you fall into the category of great runner or not.  And that, of course, is four minutes: to this day, it is still the yardstick for separating the truly fast from the average miler.

 the perfect mile

Not too long ago, May 6, 2004 to be exact, the world of athletics celebrated the 50 year anniversary of the first moment any individual was able to break the four minute barrier.  That honor goes to Sir Roger Bannister from the UK. 


The author, Neal Bascomb, gives the reader a remarkable historical backdrop of running during that era, including the frustrating politics, controversies on pacing, timing, and the influence of certain personalities like the famous athletes and coaches of that time.


The book revolves around three main characters and not just around Roger Bannister though, as the piece is generally about the race to break the 4minute mile, which apparently was a huge and almost impossible goal to achieve then.  The struggles and successes of John Landy of Australia and Wes Santee of the USA are vividly recounted as well, and their personal lives only add more color and drama to the already thick plot.


It is inspiring to say the least, and only goes to prove that human beings are capable of realizing their full potential if they are determined enough.  I will also never think of the mile run in the same way again.

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Fitness First triathletes first again

Fitness First Team Combat: Me, Ige, Mark, Dane, Eric

Fitness First Team Combat: Me, Ige, Mark, Dane, Eric


Fitness First triathletes first again
Updated May 24, 2009 12:00 AM
MANILA, Philippines – Team Combat of Fitness First, led by former national women’s triathlon champion and recent Ironman Hawaii finisher Ani de Leon and teammate Dane Cantwell, emerged runaway champion in the team event at the recent 16th Subic Bay ITU-International Triathlon.
De Leon submitted a finishing time of 2:33.14 in the individual age group of the men’s division while Cantwell clocked 2:16.16 in the women’s division.
With the 2:23.27 of Fitness First country manager Mark Ellis and Eriberto Carandang’s 2:27:32 Fitness First had an accumulated time of 9:40:31. Polo Tri Zoomers was second in 10:07:04.
David Verlee clocked 2:24.00 to lead his group composed of Anthony Welsh, JonJon Rufino, and Amanda Marie Carpo.
At third was last year’s team champion Herbalife with Ferdinand Catabian (2:16.56) at the helm together with Jojo Macalintal, Hiroshi Takei, and Reva Magno.
However, in the relay event, Herbalife retained the crown as its team of Michael Canillo, July Cagungun, and Orly Mariano combined for a winning time of 2:25.12.
The visiting Triathlon Association of Malaysia team, led by Stephanie Chok together with Gary Chong and Rikiguro Shinozuka, was second ( 2:25.54).
At third was the Camayan Ocean Adventure team (2:30.40).
The 13-15 age category was won by Bacolod’s John Rommel Uy followed by two Malaysian boys while Singapore’s Phan Yong Tin Joy copped the girl’s plum.
Spring junior and adult champions were Hong Kong’s Cheung Tsz Hei, Johanna Pe Benito, Jonjon Rufino and Stephanie Chok.
Top overall finishers in the women’s individual age group competition were De Leon, Carpo (2:39.48) and 35-39 age group champion Rizzo Tangan (2:43.05). Runners-up to Cantwell in the men’s side were Catabian and former national team member Noel Salvador (2:20.44.1).
Other age group winners in the event sponsored by SBMA, Speedo, Gatorade, PSC, David’s Salon, Globe Telecoms, Fitness First, Asian Center for Insulation, Vitwater, Sunkist, and Rudy Project, were Jefferson Tabacon (17-19,  2:43.59), Emmanuel Rodil (20-24, 2:38.17), duathlete Augus Benedicto (25-29, 2:23.03), Cantwell (30-34), Salvador (40-44), Welsh (45-49, 2:33.05, Alvin Alindogan (50-54, 2:31.26), Dr. Oscar Escudero Jr., (55-59, 3:03.45) and Brigilio Balaba (60-over, 3:25.17).
The women’s side had De Leon taking the 30-34 crown, Fiona Ottiger, 40-44 in 2:50.03, and Tangan, 35-39.
Sen. Pia Cayetano, a staunch supporter of triathlon, placed second in her age group with a time of 3:02.40.
“This was the biggest field ever in the team event of the Subic Bay International Triathlon and it shows the growth of triathlon as a serious sport in the country, “said TRAP president Tom Carrasco Jr. after the race that had Philippine STAR, DZSR, and Solar Sports together with radio sponsors – Jam 88.3, Wave 89.1, Magic 89.9, 99.5 RT, and 103.5 Max FM.



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The Warrior Mind: Developing Mental Toughness in Sports

The Warrior Mind:  Developing Mental Toughness in Sports 

By Ani Karina Sarabia de Leon

Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieveNapoleon Hill 

 The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra- ITU New Plymouth Race Video

Nothing is so common as unsuccessful people with talent. All they lack is determination- Nick Bolletieri

Mens sana in corpore sano (a healthy mind in a healthy body)- famous Latin quotation, often translated as “A sound mind in a sound body.” From Satire X of the Roman poet Juvenal.

20d office 257

What makes a great athlete?  Is it skill and technique? Endurance and stamina? Speed and strength?  When we train, we think about these things, and inside this magazine alone, you will find numerous articles which will help you develop these.  With these important components present and working well together, surely this will easily translate to success in your chosen sport, right?  Well, you need one more key ingredient.  You need mental strength.

Oh dear, you say, that’s it for me then, because I’m just not that type of person.  Good news—you don’t have to be a navy seal to possess this quality.  You can train your mind to get into shape just like your body. Here’s how.

1. Have Intrinsic Motivation.

Sports psychologists say that mentally tough athletes typically exhibit “intrinsic motivation.”  These people don’t need to be told what to do; they will go ahead and do it on their own.  Find that fuel that will fan your inner fire, everyone has something different and personal.

2. Get into “The Zone.”

You’ve heard so much about this particular “zone” that athletes get into when they’re performing that it seems cliché to write about it.  But it’s real and present in the world’s top players.  When everybody else is panicking and buckling under pressure, it is extremely important to stay calm and focus on the job at hand.

3. Stay Positive.Langkawi Race Day Shots 2009 (13)

Eliminate all your doubts and self-blocks.  The number one hurdle to success that most people have is caused by all the negativity clouding their brains.  Replace all these with positive and hopeful thoughts, and believe in them.

4. Practice Good Self-Talk.

Having a coach is crucial, but the person you are with all of the time is yourself.  Say things to yourself such as, ”you are going to do so well, and it’s gonna be an excellent day for you,” or if you make a mistake, instead of kicking yourself about it, say something like,” that’s okay, no big deal, you’re going to recover and make a good comeback from that.” It takes practice, but when the going gets rough, this tool is invaluable.

5. Visualize.

Joe Stankowski, a former powerlifting and strongman competitor, once said, “your set should be mentally done.” Imagine each step that you will need to take, the surroundings, the smell, what you will be wearing, how you will feel and look upon creating your movements, and rehearse them in your mind. “Because it’s already been done in your mind,” says Stankowski, “all you have to do is repeat it with your body.”

6. Meditate.

Just like a dirty engine that needs to be overhauled, the brain needs to detoxify and let go of all the junk inside it for it to be functioning properly.  Meditation is a technique which has been employed by many successful people for thousands of years to do just that. It fortifies your mental well-being, enhances mental clarity, reduces stress, and generally relaxes you.

7. Learn to deal with uncomfortable situations.

Get real; you can’t expect to achieve magnificent results by sitting in front of the TV.  You know you gotta deal with some challenges and sweat it out.  Once you’ve mastered the ability to troubleshoot and practice critical thinking, you will find that you can face a good number of difficult situations head-on.

8. Always be prepared.

Be a planner.  And to go even further than that, if your plan doesn’t fall through, have a back-up plan.  More than anything, if you are armed with good planning and preparation, then you will have peace of mind come competition day.

9. Don’t be afraid of failure. 20d office 065

And finally, after all of the above, the best athletes don’t overthink everything.  They just do it, like the famous ad says, and they have no fear when they do (another ad).  I mean, what’s the worst thing that could happen? And if it does happen, is that going to be so bad?  So aim high, believe in yourself, and get back up if you fall.  Chances are, you’ll be a much better person for it.

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Ani Karina S. de Leon

MC CoverProgram Manager, Pinay In Action Women Empowerment through Fitness Program, Office of Senator Pia Cayetano.

Program Manager, SuperKids Triathlon Youth Development Program, Triathlon Association of the Philippines.

 1)       To what or to whom do you attribute your success and why?

Growing up in a very dynamic household greatly contributed to that. It was generally frowned upon at home to be idle, so we would be either drawing, playing the piano, writing homemade books, etc…watching tv definitely didn’t count as an activity and was highly discouraged!  My parents, even now, are always spearheading all sorts of projects which have a positive impact on society and culture, and this kind of self-confidence and awareness—that I have to be involved in endeavors that make a difference—are ingrained in me as a result of this.  They already taught me how to have a good work ethic, and it was just a matter of finding something which I could be passionate about…which turned out to be sharing my love for sports to others and encouraging people to have a fit and healthy lifestyle.

 2)       Please describe the instance (when, where, what year, what occasion, who were with you) when you felt you had achieved success.

Although I would like to emphasize the fact that there have been many significant moments of triumph for me along the way, I certainly felt that when I won my category in the Ironman Malaysia Triathlon in February this year, everything just came together.  I was competing as part of a big Philippine contingent, and representing the country always makes me give more of myself.  I was crying when I crossed the finish line because I knew I had won, and it was perfect because I finished at the same time with two of my male training partners, Maiqui and Mark.  We had a big hug and even for weeks afterward I felt such relief and happiness that all my years of dedicating blood, sweat, and tears to the sport were finally rewarded—my win had entitled me a slot in the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii.

 3)       What do you consider your greatest achievement? Why?

It’s still a work in progress, but I genuinely believe that my own successes partnered with the successes of the women and juniors whom I coach are going to be my greatest achievement.  And this doesn’t mean just in the athletic arena.  When I coach or hold clinics I always try to convey the message that success in sports or simply possessing good physical fitness will affect all the other aspects of your life positively. When I win, I become more credible to the people who look up to me, most important of whom are the kids and young women.10 Women of The World Toast (1)

 4)       If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be and why?

 I like to be involved with so many things, and since I like to work on my own, most of the time I end up with so much backlog!

 5)       What else do you want to achieve in the next five years? Why?

 Personally, I’d like to see how far I can go with racing this specific distance for triathlon, which is the Ironman (3.8km Swim, 180km Bike, & 42km Run).  I have only started to race this long and I think I like it much more than short distance racing. 

 In terms of the  programs I am involved in, Pinay In Action and SuperKids, I’d like to see them evolve and become highly successful.  I am hoping to have more squads located all over the country, preferably with more like-minded coaches helping me carry it out.

6)       What, in your opinion, is the greatest challenge Filipinos face right now?

The great thing about us Pinoys is that we are extremely resourceful, and that is how we have been getting by so far.  But I think to be even competitive internationally, we need a better roadmap, something that we can build on long term—and more importantly a way to implement these plans. 

7)       Which historical figure do you most identify with? Why?

In Philippine History I would have to say Gabriela Silang.  She led an army of men without fear and the fact that she was a woman was inconsequential to her.  The amazing thing for me is that the Katipuneros truly followed her, which is hard for most men to do even up to today, and that only means that she must have been a genuine person of influence and a force to be reckoned with.

8)       What do you like most about your appearance?

I like the fact that I look really strong, and that I can actually back it up! My physique is something that takes discipline to maintain, and that in itself is a quiet pronouncement of my character.

9)       If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

When it comes to certain things (i.e. boring but necessary paperwork) I tend to procrastinate.

10)   What is your most treasured possession?

Right now it’s definitely my CEEPO Time Trial Killer bike. They made a custom-designed frame for me courtesy of Jerry Santos.  It goes wherever I go!

11)   Who are your favorite writers? Have any of them influenced the way you think and act? How?

I tend to gravitate towards autobiographies of sports heroes, because I can certainly relate to and learn from them.  Some of my favorites are Lance Armstrong’s “It’s Not About the Bike,” Dean Karnazes’ “Ultra Marathon Man,” Lynn Cox’s “Swimming To Antarctica,” and “The Perfect Mile” by Sir Roger Bannister.  Right now I’m reading Summer Sanders’ “Champions are Raised, Not Born.”

12)   What motto or creed of life do you live by?

Life is a great adventure.  Don’t be afraid to take risks.  Staying in one’s comfort zone breeds mediocrity.  Okay, those were three mottos already, haha.

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Alternatives to Running: Being Pro-Active When Injury Strikes

aqua runnerAlternatives to Running: Being Pro-Active When Injury Strikes

Let’s face it, whether you’re a serious athlete or a casual gym-goer, you probably don’t like being sidelined with injuries. We’re happiest when we get to play.  However, experts advice you not to ignore your injury by training right through it.  It’s not the end of the world though, and there are other exercises you can do to stay in shape and avoid further stressing out your pain.

  1. The Stair Climber

Strengthens leg muscles, tones buttocks and provides a good all-over aerobic workout. Technique is more important here than on any other machine, otherwise you are wasting your time!  Don’t support yourself on your elbows or lean in too much. Hold on for balance, still stand fairly upright. These machines are relatively easy on the joints, but people with knee problems should talk to a doctor beforehand.

  1. The Elliptical Machine

With the elliptical, your feet never leave the footpads—and this is good because that means it’s low impact.  It is still weight-bearing though, and this helps maintain and improve bone density.  It has a continuous and fluid movement which takes out the stress on your joints.  It is a full body workout with great cardiovascular benefits.

  1. Cycling:  Biking Outdoors, Spinning Classes, and Recumbent and Upright Cycle Machines

Biking outdoors, aside from being a great alternative to running, gives you so many other benefits, like experiencing great views, having fun on a group ride, and feeling the wind on your face.  It’s gentle on the knees and can help you burn a lot of calories.  You’ll develop your quadriceps muscles, gluteal muscles, and hamstring muscles, all of which are necessary in running.  Most of the time though, urbanites find it much more convenient to bike indoors, to avoid uncomfortable weather, cars and pollution, dogs, and bad roads.  Among the indoor exercise bikes we have the Spinning Bike and the Recumbent and Upright Cycle Machines.  The Spinning Bike is excellent because its geometry is very similar to that of a real bike, and the best way to enjoy them is to sign up for spinning classes.  These classes are so popular because of the social atmosphere and having an instructor up front telling you what to do is easier and less boring than doing it alone.

  1. Walking

Even if you can’t run on the treadmill for now, there’s another way for you to use it—walk!  It will give you great aerobic fitness, done at moderate and high intensities.  You can even walk everyday if you want to, provided you alternate your efforts between easy and hard.

  1.  Circuit Training

This is a great routine which combines both cardiovascular fitness and resistance training.  In the gym, you move from one exercise station to another within a span of 30-90 seconds.  You can use a wide variety of equipment such as weights, dumbbells, physioballs, medicine balls, ropes and surgical tubing, and machines.  One circuit can include 6-15 stations, and may be counted as one set, with the option of repeating the whole routine 2 or 3 times.

  1. Deep-Water Running

This is actually number one on my list, and it’s the only one that perfectly simulates running form.  There is no impact, it provides a great workout because of water resistance, and it’s good cross-training even if you aren’t injured.  Find a pool that is deep enough for you to run in without your feet touching the floor.  Invest in a good aquabelt to make your session easier.

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Swim, Bike, Run + FUN = SuperKids!

SuperTriKids CDO 2008 (20)Swim, Bike, Run + FUN = SuperKids!

Looking for a cool activity for your little one?  Bored with the predictable offerings and sports clinics that are available year in and year out?  Well then, we have just the thing for you—SuperKids to the rescue!!!

What is SuperKids?


SuperKids is the youth development program of the Triathlon Association of the Philippines (TRAP), and endeavors to cultivate a dynamic multi-sport environment in the Philippines, appropriate for the development of growing children and adolescents, which will prepare them for life-long participation in multi-sport.  The program consists of races, training camps, lectures, demonstrations, and other training and educational activities for young multi-sport athletes, coaches, and parents.

 Where can I get more information?

You can visit our website at

 Who can join?

Anyone aged 15 and below with knowledge of swimming, biking, and running for triathlons, swimming and running for aquathlons, and biking and running for duathlons.  Marshals are kid-friendly and will help any beginner and provide assistance when necessary.DSC02274

 Who can I ask for help with training and prepraration?

Coaches Ani de Leon and Rick Reyes of the TRAP junior development program.  You can email them via the website and ask for professional coaching advice.

  *The Triathlon Association of the Philippines officially launched the SuperKids Multisport Race Series last April 22, 2007 at Ayala Alabang Village in Muntinlupa City.

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