To complete and not to compete
EVERY POUND COUNTS - Alan Choachoy (The Freeman) - March 15, 2014 - 12:00am

While you are reading this article, over 400 triathletes are now braving the waters and rugged terrains of  scenic Liloan, Cebu for the 3rd Xterra Off-Road Triathlon, one of the biggest international triathlon races in the Philippines. I have participated twice under the full-distance category since its inception in 2011. This time, I will be joining under the Lite category, the shorter but still highly competitive side of the grueling event. 

In every race, there are two kinds of athletes. The first ones are those racing to compete, while the other ones are those who just want to complete. My mindset has always been to beat my personal record. For me, it doesn't matter if I am slower than the others so long as I get to finish and improve my time.

Xterra is not for the faint-hearted. This race separates the men from the boys mainly because of its off-road route both for the bike and run legs. I have been riding the mountain-bike for more than 10 years and never have I trained and practiced this hard in preparation for an event. 

My experience in last year's Xterra 2013 is still fresh in my mind. It was more difficult than my 70.3 Ironman journey. It was like hell. It was one of the toughest races I ever joined. I almost quit due to dehydration and extreme heat.

I had no problem in the swimming and bike stages. The difficult part was the downhill sections/portions of the bike route where a lot of bikers crashed. Some weren't able to complete due to injury.  At some sections/portions of the route, some were forced to walk and carry their bikes. But I'm proud to say that I was able to ride my mountain-bike all the way down the downhill sections/portions even though it was a risky and dangerous. 

Through that humbling experience, I remembered what Mr. Fred Uytengsu said - that you must be able to differentiate skills and guts. If you have the guts but no skills, then you better walk.

My problem has always been with the running stage of the competition. I hate running and I made a mistake during my training. I was expecting the same route as we had in the Xterra 2012, which was on a relatively flat course. However one week before the race, I found out that the run course would be on a technical off-road and trekking route. With just a few days left before the race, I decided not to change my training as it might result to injury. I decided that if I am going to suffer, I will only suffer once and it will be only during the race.

So when I set foot on the run section, I started slow to save my legs. During the first two kilometers, I was just jogging until the route started getting tougher. Eventually, it was no longer 'walkable' or 'runnable' as per my standard, which is where my knees could still reach my chin. Halfway through the route, I was ready to give up and was waiting for a rescue team to pass by so that they can pick me up and bring me back. But then how can a rescue team drive by this route when I myself had a very hard time walking through it. Simply put, I was at the point of no return. There was no more turning back and there was no other way for me to go but to move on.

The scorching heat of the sun was another thorn on my already rocky path. Luckily in the middle of nowhere, there were some local residents who helped me and shared their water and even gave me ice. At first, I did not want to use their water because I know that water is scarce for them as they have to trek or traverse through the hills just to fetch water. But the residents were so kind that they even offered me to rest inside their houses. Their generosity came as a breath of fresh air as I was extremely tired and exhausted. After I saw five runners pass me by, it came to my mind that if I rest longer, the longer I will suffer.

It was at this point that these words popped up in my mind, 'to complete and not to compete'. As they say, 'bahala na hinay basta kanunay'. That was my driving force to push myself further and test my limits to the hilt. I moved forward slowly until I reached the 7-kilometer mark where there was finally a hydration booth complete with ice, water and power gels. I quickly showered myself with ice-cold water and gobbled on a power gel. I recovered and was able to get a second wind. I was able to run the last three kilometers. During that time, I was able to pace with Ms. Do Feraren, one of my triathlete friends from Iligan. We decided to run together and eventually finished strong.  

Despite having a blurry vision caused by fatigue, I saw my ever supportive wife Caroline and my kids cheering their hearts out for me. That energized me more as I gently careened into the finish line. I felt a deep sense of fulfillment after the host announced "Alan Choachuy, you are an Xterra Warrior!"

Looking back at all the hardships I've been through, I realized that those words truly gave me extra power in finishing the race. All the time in my head, the words of Coach Jim Saret reverberated in mind: "Alan, complete the race no matter how long you finish it. The important thing is that you complete it. Don't compete".

SIDELINE: Congratulations to the finishers of the 3rd All-Women's Ultra Marathon (AWUM), a 50-kilometer race along the three major cities of Cebu. To my Metafit 'Lady Ultra Marathoners' Linaflor Chan, Sheila Colmenares, Dr. Janet Solis, Leslie Pesons, Joy Padilla Bascug, Donafel Tacandong, and Arlene Cunanan, my hats off to all of you for completing the lung-busting ordeal under eight hours, which is two hours away from the cut-off time.

Next week in time for summer, I will be writing about the concept of 'Eating to Lose Weight'. You can visit my Facebook page at For comments, you can reach me at


  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?
Login is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with