Triathlete wins hearts—and weight war

August 05,2014 - 06:17 PM

People were clapping and cheering Maria Khristina Fontillas as she pedals out out of the South Coastal Road tunnel during the Cobra Ironman 70.3 triathlon. (CDN PHOTO/ JUNJIE MENDOZA)

She joined the Cobra Ironman 70.3 Philippines to show her love for her husband and biking.

But as Maria Khristina Fontillas pedalled through the challenging 90-kilometer bike course,  she got a lot of love, too, from the crowds that lined the streets.

“It was really fun,” said the 35-year-old Fontillas, who started out as an avid swimmer. “[In] swimming, no one is watching while you [perform]; you  only get seen once you get out of the water. But all throughout the bike  race, people cheered on me that was why I told myself that it’s more fun to  bike.”

Fontillas was a hit among the people who watched her compete because of the confidence and fierceness with which she completed the course. It was a  fierceness forged after getting into an active lifestyle more for health  benefits than competition.

Fontillas and husband John Paul used to pack too many pounds that the latter  started suffering from hypertension and other weight-related health issues  at a young age of 24.

A friend encouraged him to run his first 10-kilometer race.

“At first, I just took a 10-kilometer run, my body felt really bad,” said  John Paul.

But he persevered and formed Team Lakantri in July 2010. Today, that group already has 34 members.

And one of them is his wife, who drew the admiration of triathlon fans  during the Cobra Ironman. Maria Khristina said she was encouraged to join  the team by the number of stories her husband shared with her after every  competition he joined.

“I told my friend to join because I felt that my husband seems fulfilled  after joining [the races],” she said. “I feel like there is so much fun.”

And John Paul jumped on his wife’s initial interest, gifting her a bike  during her birthday in September last year. Maria Khristina jumped on the  seat almost immediately and began practicing. In October, she signed up for  the Cobra Ironman.

“The bike I used during the triathlon was actually his birthday gift to me.  I started using it after I registered (Ironman) last October,” she said. “I  know how to bike but I did not know how to use the road bikes (triathlon  bikes).”

As it turned out, though, her grit and determination were enough to push her  during the event–and win over the crowd in the process.

“I did not expect them to cheer for me,” she admitted. All she was thinking of during the race was she could not afford mechanical  problems, like a flat tire for instance. “I do not know how to fix them,” she said.

Not only did she ride seamlessly, she finished the race ahead of the cut-off  time. And she credits being part of Team Lakantri for her success.

“We [do] team training, everyone contributes tips,” she said. “We also have  medical doctors who [help us with] nutrition and the things we should do  during the race.”

While members of Lakantri participate in the name of fun, bonding moments  and the spirit of good-natured competition, John Paul said they take their  health issues seriously.

According to him, 8 out of 34 members of the team are overweight. Four of  them have already lost significant pounds because of the swim-bike-run  training sessions.

Khristina and husband John Paul after the race. (CDN PHOTO/ KRYSTAL EDUYAN)

John Paul shared that Maria Khristina is among those who have shed off  unwanted weight in the two years that she has been with the group.

“Before she joined she was 280 pounds, but now she reduced that by 50 pounds,” he revealed.

The Lakantri team is based in Bulacan, but John Paul said the team has  started growing, with members from as far as Bicol joining the squad.

The group trains in a sports complex in Bulacan. Lakantri is supported by  the local government, which allows them free access to their 50-meter pool  for swimming practice.

The group follows a rigid schedule. They swim Mondays, Wednesdays and  Fridays. Tuesdays and Thursdays are reserved for biking. They take long  rides and long runs on Saturdays.

“Every training, we feel knocked out and while in the event, we ask ourselves  why we are doing this,” said John Paul. “But in the end, we realize it was worth it and we feel fulfilled.”

The team has been invited join the Macau International, not just to compete  but to promote healthy living.

“We are not competitive, we’re simply finishers, and we only do it for healthy living,” said John Paul.

And Maria Khristina hopes the team continues to spread its message of having  a healthy lifestyle.

“If I can do it, others can also do it,” she said./ Kristal A. Eduyan, Palompon Institute of Technology Intern


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TAGS: Cobra Ironman 70.3, Cobra Ironman 70.3 Philippines, Ironman, sports, women, women empowerment

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