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Race to raise funds for a cause First Filipino expat In uae to join the Ultraman Florida 2019 race

Published: February 12, 2019 10:15

By Manuel Almario, Community Editor

What does it take to swim, bike, run 517.5 kilometers? Surely, Superman comes to mind to conquer it.

But no, we are talking about the Ultraman racers or ultra-runners – they’re human beings with iron wills, who push themselves physically and mentally beyond their limits.

Fifty triathletes from around the world have been chosen to race for the Ultraman Florida 2019. It is a three-day athletic event from February 15 to 17 to test an athlete’s physical and mental limits. The race covers a total distance of 517.5km around central Florida. Among them is Romeo Puncia, the only Filipino triathlete, based in the UAE, who qualified for this ultra-endurance challenge.

Romeo Puncia represented the Philippines in the Ironman race. Image credit: Supplied

According to Jen McVeay, Assistant Race Director, Ultraman Florida, the criteria for selecting 50 triathletes from around the world are:

Triathletes who have completed an Iron distance race (or longer) within the 18 months prior to the Ultraman Florida they are applying for will be considered during our application process. Athletic ability and speed are not the only factors in choosing our athletes though - we put just as much importance on their character, willingness to help others, personality and charitable nature.

Romeo Puncia with his bike that he uses for the triathlon. Image credit: Supplied

All of these traits are what make Ultraman athletes special. Ultraman branded races are like a family reunion - athletes and crews become friends for life over the course of race week. Limiting the field to only 50 athletes ensures the feeling of aloha, ohana and kokua - the Hawaiian principles of love, family and helping your fellow man.

McVeay said: “Filipina triathlete Shangrila Rendon has participated in the Ultraman Florida and finished in the past. We have not had an athlete from the Middle East participate in Ultraman Florida.”

Romeo Puncia during his triathlon event. Image credit: Supplied

Puncia, 32, is working as an emergency medical technician in the public health care sector in Abu Dhabi for eight years. He said: “I work for 12 hours per day, four days work and four days off week cycle. I train almost every day after working hours. During my off days, I wake up early in the morning to prepare my breakfast, then do my 15 minutes morning meditation, then long hours of triathlon training, and spend the rest of the day with my family.

He stands five feet tall and weighs 59kg. He said: “Being small is not a disadvantage in triathlon, and I have proved that many a times in numerous races I attended, wherein I surpassed many athletes who are taller than me. I believe I am small but very tough. It is all about discipline and determination to succeed. There is no cash prize for this, we are racing for some charity organisations and for a chance to compete in the Ultraman World Championship in Hawaii, in November.”

I will join the Ironman African Championship on April 7, 2019, Ironman European Championship on June 30, 2019 and another Ironman around August and October 2019. I would continue doing triathlon and fly boarding, and be a world-class athlete

A triathlon is a multisport race with three continuous and sequential endurance races, the most common form includes: swimming, cycling and running over various distances.

Image credit: Supplied

Fit to race

How to be in the best shape for a race? He said: “My Ultraman coach Jeremy Howard of Way2Champ Endurance Coaching, who is based in the US, prepares my training programs for two to three weeks and from there I know exactly my swim, bike, run training plans for those weeks and plot it to my calendar. He always pushes me to train smart and follow the programs wholeheartedly with total dedication. Since I live in Al Ain, I swim in the Olympic size pool of Danat Al Ain Resort. At times I go to Abu Dhabi for an open water swim. I do my bicycle trainings in Jebel Hafeet Mountain, Al Ain Cycling Track and in my home for indoor cycling. I normally run around Al Masoudi or in Wadi Park and on my treadmill at home. Smart training is the key. You need time for mobility and stretching exercises, sleep and stick to your nutrition plan.”

Image credit: Manuel Almario/Gulf News

First encounter

He first knew about triathlon around April 2016, when his friend Rodruf Sollestre invited him to watch his team’s swimming session. He said: “At that time I didn’t know how to swim and was afraid to get into the deep water. I didn’t even know how to pedal the right way and was really slow in cycling. I never had done more than five kilometres of running. Some athletes discouraged me to continue the sport because I am a newbie and do not have the skills, but I took them on as a challenge. I studied the sports, watched Youtube triathlon videos, asked some people’s help and patiently practised the skills. After a couple of months of training, I did my first Sprint Triathlon in Roy Nasr Memorial Triathlon in October 2016. I enjoyed this sport and the rest of it is history.”

I consider the UAE my second home. What I love about the UAE is that they provide us world-class facilities for a triathlon, mostly with free access where you can develop your skills and talent and boost your athletic spirit

Winning moments

To date, he has completed 8 X 70.3 distances (1.9km swim, 90km bike, 21.1km run) in Bahrain, the UAE, Turkey, Nelson Mandela Bay - South Africa and the Philippines. He also did the full Ironman (3.8km swim, 180km bike, 42.2km run) in South Africa, and more than 40 races that includes marathons, half marathons, sprint to long courses triathlons, aquathlons, 5 to 16km run, swim and bike races, and many more.

Image credit: Supplied

He said: “I got my first podium when I did the second edition of Abu Dhabi Swimming Festival at Al Hudayriat Island in October 2018 for completing four swim courses of 1600mm, 800m, 400m, 200m. And another podium in 200m swim in November 2018. Another achievement was the 2017 Ironman All World Athlete - Bronze, and 2018 Ironman All World Athlete - Silver.

“I admire the women, pro-triathlete Sarah True from the US and Daniela Ryf of Switzerland. I met them during the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in South Africa. They are the World Champions in the Ironman races, they are sweet, kind and very approachable.”

In Numbers:

3-day Ultra-Endurance event

50 triathletes

10km swim

84km run

423km bike ride

Diet plan

Health benefits of being active in sport?

He said: “When I started the fitness stuff and involved in sport, I felt very strong, never get sick, and seemed like a superman who could do so many things, my brain and memory functions very well, too, and if wounded it heals fast. I love my health now compared to my life when I was a smoker and an alcoholic. I make sure to have a balanced diet meal. Take lots of protein, carbs and a little portion of healthy fats. Carbs are your muscles preferred source of energy. Ideally, these carbs should come from real food such as whole grains, fruits, beans and vegetables. These foods supply your body with energy and provide essential nutrients your body needs for recovery and health.

Image credit: Supplied

“Protein supplies the amino acids your muscles need for recovery and growth, and as a triathlete, I need more protein than a non-athlete. During my training I make sure that I maintain 60g of carbs per hour, I get it from energy gels or bar and vitargo electrolytes. I love eating fruits and vegetables. But sometimes I do have a cheat day, maybe once or twice in 10 days, I eat whatever I want.”

I save money every month and run in triathlon races in different parts of the world so I can help the indigenous tribal communities in Palawan, Philippines

High hopes

What are your chances of winning the Ultraman?

He said: “I would be very happy if I will be in the top five in the male category. I believe I can do it. I do appreciate my family, friends and the triathlon communities in the Philippines and the UAE, as well as the tribal communities of Palawan, Philippines, for their love and support. They inspired, motivated and encouraged me a lot to finish the race strong. I am motivated to get the Finisher Medal.”

How would you feel if you fail in this race?

He said: “If I fail, of course, I may feel disappointed because I prepared myself many months for this race, and the world is watching and supporting me, because I am also doing the race for them. But whatever the result maybe I have to accept that and move on.”

Race for a cause

Puncia races to raise funds for a cause. He said: “I save money every month and run in triathlon races in different parts of the world so I can help the indigenous tribal communities in Palawan, Philippines. I would like them to have feeding and school programs, health and medical supplies, sport facilities, trainings and seminar, and other basic needs. I would provide them different programs to uplift their living condition holistically. I would help them build sports and recreation centre and a new school and raise great athletes from the tribe.” Due to his philanthropic activities, Puncia has been awarded as Dakilang Bayani (Noble Hero) by the Philippine Consulate General office in Dubai in 2018.

Plans after Ultraman

Puncia has a lot of preparations for his upcoming races this year and a two-week tribal mission trip in the Philippines this April.

He said: “I will join the Ironman African Championship on April 7, 2019, Ironman European Championship on June 30, 2019 and another Ironman around August and October 2019. I would continue doing triathlon and fly boarding, and be a world-class athlete.

Image credit: Supplied

“I still want to work and live here for another eight to 10 years. I consider the UAE my second home. What I love about the UAE is that they provide us world-class facilities for a triathlon, mostly with free access where you can develop your skills and talent and boost your athletic spirit. We have so many amazing cycling tracks, beaches, pool access, and run courses where you can do your triathlon trainings. When I have enough savings and investments, I plan to retire and be a full time missionary and volunteer for the tribal communities in Palawan, Philippines.”

About Ultraman Florida 2019

Ultraman Florida is a three-day athletic event to test an athlete’s physical and mental limits. The race covers a total distance of 321.6 miles (517.5km) around central Florida. It requires that each participant complete a 6.2 mile (10km) open water swim, a 263 mile (423km) bike ride, and a 52.4 mile (84km) ultra-marathon run.

Day 1 consists of a 6.2 mile swim and 92 mile bike.

Day 2 is a 171 mile bike.

Day 3 is a 52.4 mile run.

Ultraman Florida is held around central Florida, which started in 2014.

As of December 2018, there are four existing Ultraman Triathlons. Ultraman Florida, Ultraman Canada and Ultraman Arizona all serve as qualifiers for Ultraman World Championships.

Image credit: Supplied
  • Layout: Christian Borbon, Web Producer
  • Photos: Clint Egbert, Photographer
  • Videography: Manuel Almario, Community Editor

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