New dad August Benedicto overcomes lack of training, sleep to become fastest Filipino in Century Tuna Ironman 70.3
August Benedicto was the best Filipino finisher in the Ironman 70.3. Jaime Campos

IT’S unclear on which one is harder: being a first–time dad or racing an Ironman triathlon without enough training time. What's clear is combining both is a really challenging task, which makes August Benedicto's feat in the 2016 Century Tuna Ironman 70.3 even more impressive.

Benedicto took the Filipino Elite crown in the popular race held Sunday at the Subic Bay Freeport, barely three months after his wife and Team Unilab teammate Anna Stroh gave birth to their eldest son, Abednego.

“Maganda yung araw, mas mainit mas gusto ng katawan ko iyon,” said the native of Paniqui, Tarlac who finished in four hours, 20 minutes and 15 seconds - his best time for Ironman 70.3 and good enough for 11th overall.

“Hindi ko na-expect na ganoon yung time ko kasi lagi akong puyat (kasi for) two months, nanganak ang misis ko nung December 28. Siyempre kailangan tulungan ko sa pag-aalaga. Puyat so hindi ganoon (kahaba) yung training ko. Talagang ninerbiyos din ako kasi gusto kong makuha yung first place kasi pangarap ko din ako naman ngayong taon na ito," added the 31-year-old triathlete.

Sponsored by Unilab and PMI, Benedicto leaned on a good run to offset a grueling bike stage where he placed sixth among the Filipino entries, allowing him to slowly overcome early leader Paul Jumamil's four-minute lead.

“Nakuha ko unti-unti sila, si Paul yung nahirapan akong abutin, nakita ko siya sa Tipo pagdating sa downhill… nung run na off the bike naabutan ko na siya dito, nagpantay kami. Nag-speed ako, tuluy-tuloy na. Nakuha ko all the way,” Benedicto recalled.

The tri veteran said Filipino elites have improved a lot, which made him more anxious before the race because of  his lack of training. He has been joining Ironman competitions since 2009.

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The affable Benedicto joins races every week to support his new family. He bared that he has started coaching kids and age groupers as well to help augment the income he earns from races, using the impressive experience he has in gaining podium finishes.

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“Kailangan. Mas lalong napupursigi ako siyempre may baby na din ako,” he told reporters after the race.

Benedicto understands training won't be as consistent as he wants it to be with his son in the mix. But he remains undaunted, saying his family is a source of energy and inspiration, and never a distraction.

“Putol-putol. Minsan tumatakbo na ako alas diyes ng gabi. Minsan 30 minutes maipasok ko lang 'yung training ko kasi hindi natin alam kung kailan iiyak yung bata,” said the multi-sport athlete, who didn't have his wife and child at the finish line in Subic as his infant son had a fever.

“Pero iniisip ko na lang na nagchi-cheer sila sa akin,” he added with a smile.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @rhoelfernandez