AVID triathlete Greg Banzon may have exchanged his cycling helmet for his corporate hat last weekend for Century Tuna Ironman 70.3 Subic, but this did not deter him from sharing his passion for one of the fastest rising sports in the country.
Apart from being the general manager of Century Pacific Food which hosted it’s second Ironman 70.3 at the Subic Bay Freeport, Banzon describes himself in his blog as “Global Citizen, Tireless Corporate Executive, Agora Awardee for Marketing Excellence, International Branding Expert, Taipan in the making, Triathlete, Runner and a Soldier of God on Earth.”
The amiable Banzon is also part of the founding group of Century Tuna Tri Hard, a team composed of professionals, entrepreneurs, doctors, businessmen and even housewives. The multi-sport enthusiasts started out as weekend warriors looking for serious exercise but as the sport grew and the races became more competitive, the same thing happened to the team.
Shortly after the media event last Saturday at the Subic Convention Center where the Century Tuna executive shared the stage with an impressive international cast of pro elites led by five-time Ironman World Champion Craig 'Crowie' Alexander, Banzon (who is currently recuperating from injuries and will soon be able to take part in races) sat down with SPIN.ph for a quick question and answer session.
SPIN: How long have you been involved with triathlon?
GREG BANZON: I’m one of the pioneers. We’ve been around exactly 10 years last February. I started out as a runner and later progressed to triathlon.
SPIN: Was it a natural decision for you to use triathlon in promoting Century Tuna?
GREG: We saw triathlon as a unique sport at the time. It was seen as hard core but at the same time lifestyle driven so you see a strict discipline in terms of training, dieting and we saw the connection between what we wanted the brand to stand for and what the event should require from an athlete. We saw a natural connect. We were the early adapters to the sport and that is why one of the observations is if you think triathlon it’s either Cobra or Century.
SPIN: We have heard that the triathlon is the new golf course. What are your thoughts on that?
GREG: Well it’s not cheap to get into this sport. You have to buy a bike and maintain that bike. But once you do the upfront investment it actually becomes more sensible because the bikes last eight years or so.
The other thing is it that takes a lot of time. For you to compete in (an Ironman) 70.3 for example, you have to do long rides every weekend and once at least during the week. The long rides take as much as four hours and are 100 kilometers or more so like golf, it eats up a lot of time.
SPIN: On a personal level, what attracted you to triathlon?
GREG: It’s an individual challenge. Although you compete against others, at the end of the day you’re still trying to beat yourself in terms of enduring the distance, doing well, continuing to be competitive and the motivation to accomplish difficult tasks and challenges.
SPIN: What goes through your head during a race?
GREG: One is to be really efficient. I guess smart in allocating your energies across the whole race, depending if it’s a short race or a full Ironman. If you feel a bit tense, well the whole Ironman you’ll be scared. You don’t know what to expect but at the same time you think of the training that you’ve put in and that you have the confidence to stand on the starting line and push.
SPIN: For someone in your position is it difficult to find time to train?
GREG: In my case the problem is I do a lot of work both in the executive level for the company and I travel a lot as well. Century is slowly becoming a global brand. We’re now in 57 countries. I’m also in charge of global branding so I travel a lot. What I do is I bring my goggles. I bring my running shoes. And there’s always some form of bike trainer in hotels. You don’t really miss out on the training but you pretty much manage your schedule to fit in the training. I wake up very early, 4:30 a.m. and I’m on the road 4:45 a.m.
SPIN: Did this ethic emerge from your triathlon background?
GREG: You apply and adopt the same principles of management, discipline, determination. Thinking through all of the tasks to make sure you’re able to compete and complete the challenge of the distances.
SPIN: Do you have a specific number of races in your schedule for a given year?
GREG: Normally, the ones that are always in the lists of athletes. Here in the Philippines, there’s the two 70.3s - the Century Tuna 70.3 and Cobra 70.3. That’s always a must-race and to all your friends it becomes like a gathering of all of the serious triathletes in the country. Then there are one or two 51.50s or Olympic distance and for the more serious ones at least once a year they go off on a full Ironman. I’ve done Ironman Korea. I’ve completed Ironman Malaysia and Ironman Australia.
SPIN: When you first learned that there would be an Ironman in the Philippines, what was your first reaction?
GREG: We were all excited! At the time it was very early on. But its events like this that helps the sport to evolve. More science comes in and people become more educated on how they train and race.
SPIN: We noticed that a lot of successful business executives and corporate leaders are avid triathletes. Is there a common denominator that explains this?
GREG: I think three things: 1) The competitive nature of a lot of executives. 2) It's being able to push yourselves. See where your limits are. And 3) It’s the camaraderie. You get to spend time riding with your friends. It’s sort of like “birds of the same feather…” We do the same thing, we have the same interests and it bonds us.”