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Sulong PinoyBecoming an Ironman

by Norman Aceron Garcia

Photos by Bert Celestino

Let’s meet Wystan Celestino, the first member to represent Sulong Triathlon Group in an Ironman race (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run) held in Boulder, Colorado on August 7, 2015.

How did you get into triathlon?

I needed something to keep me on the treadmill when I was trying to lose 30 to 40 pounds and preparing for a half marathon back in 2012. I got inspired from watching several Ironman and ultra-marathon videos. Back then, it was just a “maybe,” kasi di pa ko sanay lumangoy and my fitness was next to nothing.

What made you decide to take on Ironman Boulder?

It was on my bucket list and gift ko na din sa sarili ko before I turn 30 and to learn how to swim. Between several Ironman races [Boulder] is the closest to Winnipeg and maraming mapupuntahan for the whole family. Also time wise, I know I have to be conservative with my training kasi alam ko marami pa kong room for improvements at tweaking to do with all three disciplines kaya I decided to give myself seven months. Pero even though I had seven months I still started early in October with the training because I was really excited.

What were your specific preparations for the race?

September until November 2014, I was weight training by myself, working on my swimming muscles and some squats and my legs sa bahay. Then tried one month of the six-month plan before actually starting in New Year 2015 and getting ready to incorporate training into my full time job with base training from January to March and peak phase from April to July. Base training nagweweights pa din ako but noong peak phase na eh mostly endurance.

How was your performance overall in Ironman Boulder?

Coming into the race, I felt really ready but I also had a lot of doubts and the worst-case scenario was going through my head on race day. On race day, I felt really in the moment but I also brought a little too much gear for race day.

I started last on the swim and just focused on my technique, tempo, and sighting in the water. I monitored my heart rate, making sure I was in Zone 2 at 130 beats per minute (bpm). During the whole bike [portion], I made sure I was cooling myself with water. [I kept between] 135 and 140 (bpm) in my half marathon, and between 140 and 145 (bpm) in the last half. People were collapsing and hitting the road due to heat and dehydration. An old lady lost consciousness while biking and had an accident at an aid station. Really scary stuff!

How do you manage your time between working as a full-time nurse and training for the Ironman?

I have a very understanding wife. I ensured that my family was well aware of my goals – what they and I have to do make this happen and the sacrifices that have to be done. I had to rewrite my schedule and find time anywhere I could. I had to work closer in the city instead of driving 1.5 hours back and forth in my previous job. My wife bought a Roomba, vacuum robot, to help decrease the workload. I asked my parents to cook more because sometimes I had to drop by their house after training to eat. On shorter workout days, I made sure that I was spending my time with family. I rearranged my workout schedule so my long ride fell on days (usually weekdays) when my wife is working, then spending time with her when she was at home. Really savouring my rest days up to the last minute. And if I missed a work out, I wouldn’t sweat it too much so it wouldn’t affect my next workout day.

What’s your most indispensable gear?

Watch and heart rate monitor. Sometimes, I don’t have time to do a tempo bike ride because I forget my helmet or its cold outside. The watch and the heart rate monitor help me reach a heart rate zone specific for that workout.

What’s your favourite workout?

For this Ironman training, my favourite had to be the swimming only because I know that I suck at it. I know that if I gut it out every workout I will have more room to improve, get faster, more comfortable swimming, then it will translate, hopefully, into more energy in the bike and run. In reality though, I like trail running or ultra running. Can’t wait to go back in the trail.

Norman is a member of Sulong Triathlon Group. For more information, please visit our website at and like us on Facebook at Sulong Triathlon Group.

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