There are different stories that happen in an Ironman event. There’s the battle for the top for the Pros, Elites and the Age Groupers. Then there’s the inspiring story of cancer survivor Frdz Encrnacion who conquered the distance and earn the title, Ironman.
Guest Post Profile: Frdz Encrnacion
Frdz has been a schoolmate in college and I’ve followed his journey as he started from running all the way to triathlon. Frdz shares his Century Tuna Ironman event as a guest post here at Francramon.com.
Frdz Encrncion is a businessman in Tarlac selling agricultural tractors and equipment. He also plays badminton aside from Triathlon. He was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer in the year 2000 and underwent thyroidectomy (removal of thyroid gland thru surgery) and a series of radiations. He engages in sport to keep himself fit and away from the big CANCER. He is a living testament that with God’s grace, prayers, family support and a positive attitude… “We CANCERvive”.
June3, 2018, Traveller’s Hotel, Subic Bay Philippines.
I woke up at 2:50am, 10 minutes before my alarm. I was more anxious than excited for what lies ahead. It’s D-day for me and more than 1200 triathletes that aims to conquer the inaugural full distance IRONMAN race in the Philippines. Took a quick shower, prepped our gears and ate what could be my last breakfast with my co-athletes Harley David and Dr Dodi Sanchez.
5:00 am, BIKE TRANSITION AREA
By this time, the transition area was buzzing with athletes and support groups. I can hear the IRONMAN theme song “Hall of Fame” from the loud speakers. It was both calm and chaotic as athletes wish each other the best of luck. I took advantage of taking photos with my wife and team mates while my phone was still at hand.
6:00 am, ACEA’s Beach Front
After checking my bike named JARVIS and other gear. I and Doc Sanchez descended to ACEA’s beach front. We were right in time for the flag ceremony and opening prayer. At this moment I realized that this is not a dream or a nightmare. This is it, there is no backing-up now. In a few moments, I will be swimming 3.8kms, Cycling 180kms and running 42kms to finish the race and be called an IRONMAN for life. That thought somehow made my knees tremble. Good thing there’s a hydration station within reach. I was able to suck everything in with the help of a cup of water.
At the swim start, we were grouped according to our estimated swim finish times, I belong to the 3rd wave where I saw another team mate, MR SID VICENTE. He just finished his first full distance Triathlon Race at TABUELAN226 – 2017 and ranked 2nd on his Age Group. I wasted no time asking for race tips to help cool down my nerves.
As our wave was closely inching in to the start line, I tightened my mirrored goggles. The ceramic buckle at the back of my head snapped and was broken. Good thing I had a spare goggles in my pocket. Otherwise, my race would be finished before it even started.
6:39 AM, Start of my 3.8km SWIM, 2 loops, Counter-clockwise
The swim course was a 2 loop x 550m x 850m x 50m x350m x 100m
Half Arrow in shape. The tide was a bit crazy brought by the brewing storm on the eastern seaboard.
So it begins. We were like mad dogs, running to the beach before diving into the water. Almost half of the athletes were already in the water as I was just about to start. Swim traffic was everywhere. I positioned myself far away from the swim rope to evade traffic. 400 meters into the swim, a breast stroker kicked me in the head causing my goggles to leak. I swam to a boat marshal 50m on my right but as I was inching in, the marshal drove away. So I had to swim back to my left, towards the safety rope to fix my leaking goggles.
The 850meter lap was an eternity of abyss and heavy tide mixed together. Swim sighting was beginning to be a challenge as the distance grows. My shoulders became heavy by the minute as fear of uncertainty plays on my mind. I have trained for this moment, I said. I can do all things with God who strengthens me, I said. Those words were strong enough to brush away the fears of uncertainty.
Finished my 1st loop in 46:24 and a spinning head upon walking at the beach. I saw Kuya Kim Atienza and he gave me a high-5 along the way. That gave me the much needed boost as I started the 2nd loop. For some reason, the 2nd loop was somehow easier than the 1st. Everything was pretty smooth. Finished the whole swim leg in 1:34:47 still lots of energy at the tank but with heavy shoulders.
8:00 AM, Start of my 180km BIKE, 2 loops, SCTEX
The 180km Bike leg is a 2-loop rolling terrain at the scenic roads of SCTEX.
We had a honeymoon stage at 1st 5kms of the bike with flat roads going to TIPO exit. From there, the hills were unrelenting. We just had to console ourselves by saying, “What goes up must come down”.
At the early stages of the bike course, the summer heat was trying burn as out. I made sure to keep my engine cool by filling 1 bottle with ice cold Gatorade and 3 bottles of ice cold water. The 3-ice cold water bottles was placed on the bike bottle cage, on my back pocket (lower back) and my simple Hydration bottle on my upper back. There were aid stops to refill the bottles for every 15kms so I liberally pour water on my head and legs all throughout the bike course. It was a technique that works wonders as the heat was pounding us until around 11am. Before high noon, God intervened and heard our prayers for a cool weather. He gave us even more than what we asked for. Heavy rain poured on us for less an hour with some crosswinds that made us slow down a bit.
Somewhere at the 80km pit stop, I asked a marshal to please hand me a Gatorade bottle. To my surprise, the marshal was no other than MR FRED UYTENGSU (Alaska CEO and the man responsible for bringing IRONMAN brand in the Philippines). He handed me a bottle with water in it saying “tubig only, no Gatorade available”. I was shocked for a bit and said, “Thank you very much sir, this bottle is more than enough because it came from you”.
And so the fight resumes, by the 100km mark the rain had already stopped. I was so hungry that no gu gel can relieve it. I am now at the Special Needs Aid Station where I deposited my spam sandwich for lunch. It was right where I wanted it to be. Took a 7min break to stretch my aching back and believe me when I say this… “It was the most delicious lunch I ever had – A spam sandwich on the side of a road”.
The 7-minute break gave me a full reset as I conquer the 2nd loop. The weather was perfect with thick clouds covering us and the road has dried up by now. Just like in the swim, the 2nd loop was easier than the 1st loop due to its familiarity. At the 140km mark, with God’s grace for bringing us a cool weather, I knew deep inside from this point that the swim & bike leg was in the bag.
Finished the 180kms BIKE leg at 7hrs, 2mins, 35sec.
3:30 PM, Start of my 42km RUN, 2 loops, Subic Bay
The Run course was relatively flat with some false flats along Argonaut highway. Hydration and Aid station were placed approximately 1 to 1.3kms apart. Perfect to counter the heat conditions during the first kilometers of my run. It was all mind over matter from this point on.
Seeing my wife CINDY and getting that much needed hug along the run course was a big motivation for me to finish the run leg. There were hundreds if not thousands of people cheering us on from different triathlon teams and support groups. Some Tri Force members traveled all the way from Tarlac to show support. Thanks guys, you’re the best. Their energy definitely rubbed into us as we face the difficult task of running a marathon under fatigue.
They say that the IRONMAN race starts at the Run leg. I kept that in mind right from the beginning of the race. “Slow is fast was my Motto on the swim & bike course”. It worked wonders, my legs was tired at the run but could still manage to run a 5:50 to 6:30 pace/km on my 1st 10km Run. Lots of gratitude to the energetic Hydration stations manned by different Tri Teams. The marathon was more of a run party because of you guys.
At the 12th km mark, my legs turned heavy from lactic build up. I had to slow down and watch my nutrition. It is also at this part of the race where I started seeing athletes vomiting from over fatigue or wrong nutrition. Fearing that I might be next, I decided to slow down the pace a bit more to 6:30 to 7:30mins/km. To lift my spirits up, I thought of the previous races that I’ve joined to build up for this race. My wife, family and friends following me online and on the course was also constantly in mind.
As I am nearly closing into the finish line, a train of thought starts to pour in. From the very first time I jumped to the pool to learn how to swim, to the very long rides and ultramarathons. All the triumphs and failures along the way. The mixed emotions were so overwhelming that fatigue took a backseat. I have lived-up to my training quote. I have set a goal so big that is impossible for me to achieve, and I was able to grow into the person who can. It is by crossing that finish line that I discovered the true meaning of an IRONMAN. I have realized what lies beyond my limits. That there are NO limits. That nothing is IMPOSSIBLE.
This is why, the IRONMAN race was the Best and Worst day of my Triathlon life.