Monday, November 12, 2007

Philippine Trip - Training with the National Cycling Team

Here's a quick recap of my 15 day trip

Day 1: 20 hr flight to the PI, where I sat uncomfortably in coach watching some bad movies and ate some not so good food. But I was excited about the trip and the time flew by, I actually was lucky enough to sleep most of the way. When I finally got to Manila, I was greeted by my aunt, grandpa, and the suffocating heat and pollution. But my aunt reminds me that this weather is actually cool for this time of the year. But coming from San Francisco, well this mild weather is like an inferno. Later that night, I went out to a cool bar to see TJ, the son of my host family, play with his band. I drank a few rounds of vodka tonic with the hope that it will knock me out for the night.

Day2: The vodka loading didn't work. I woke up at 3am with a hangover instead. And my jetlag was pretty bad since there's a 15 hr time difference b/w SF and Manila. I tried very hard to force myself back to sleep - blinders, ear piece, nothing worked. It was impossible. Later in the day, I met up with the team and coaches. Got the grand tour of the velodrome and housing facilities of the team. The velodrome was actually packed with people praying. It turns out that the team shares the velodrome with worshipers every Wed and the weekends. This means that we can only train during certain days/hours. Wouldn't want to upset God by interrupting a prayer vigil =)

Day 3 - 6: Hard Training behind a moto. We were doing 2 a day training sessions in the heat and smog. I was exhausted everyday. And the jetlag was killing me. My teammates are really strong, and I'm honored to be able to join this team of dedicated and talented riders. Most of my teammates, have ridden for the National team for a few years and have represented the Philippines in many prestigious international events like the Asian Games, Tour of Taiwan, Tour of Langkawi, SEA Games, etc. This year will be my first and I hope to make the most of it by qualifying myself and the team for the '08 Beijing Olympics and winning gold at the SEA Games.

Day 7: Day off. I spend the time visiting the charity that I'm helping out, The Philippine Childrens Fund of America PCFA. They have built a ranch 2 hrs from Manila in the outskirts of Clark, the former US Airforce Base. The ranch is a a unique biopreserve and a sanctuary for abandoned animals. It's a beautiful ranch located in the ancestral grounds of the Aeta community, who are the aboriginal people of the Philippines. The goal of the ranch is to create a sustainable community to help fund educational and feeding programs for the Aeta children and also the orphaned children in Clark. It's a great charity that I'm happy to be helping out.
To donate visit:

Day 8: Sick. The fatigue, hard training, and the pollution have finally caught up to me. I spend the day resting/sleeping and just eating fresh philippine fruits, like Atis, Mango, Lansones. Yum.

Day 9: Press Conference time. I was invited along with the coach and the team captains on a press conference that was attended by the Philippine sports writers for the major papers. The press conference was also on live radio and taped for TV. It was the cool. I fielded alot of questions about my background, results and chances for the winning a medal at the SEA GAMES. I answered the questions in Tagalog, which surprised alot of the journalist. But they were pleasantly surprised and i think b/c of it, they were more interested in what I had to say. I was working the press with the hope that they create good exposure that will help me land a corporate sponsor for the charity. Anyhow, it's good to be bilingual. Now I have to teach my kids to speak tagalog.

Day 10 - 11: 2 days of Medical checkups. The full workup, piss into a cup, draw blood, pushup and situp tests, xray, VO2 max testing, flexibility and strength test. I even took a psych test. Also, I had a dental checkup, cleaning. The dentist says that they want to make sure the athletes have a nice white smile for when we win gold at the SEA Games. It's all a big deal in the Philippines. I'm starting to feel the pressure, well, I'm looking forward to winning gold. One of the cool benefits of being on the National Team is that I get full dental/medical coverage in the Philippines and anywhere I compete overseas. Just so the movie Sicko about Healthcare problem in the US, and it made me appreciate this benefit all the more.

Day 12-13: We weren't able to ride for the past 2 days because it was raining and the velodrome is unrideable. They used shiny paint for the pavement and it feels like riding on ice when there's a little bit of water on the track. So I've been riding the rollers a few hours a day instead. When the rain finally cleared up, the coaches double checked the track, wiped it down by getting down on their hands and knees. Then we did some speed drills and a timed attack. I did a 500m tt and flying 200. My times were slow for me since I've been sick, but I was still able to post the fastest times.

Day 14: Got the greenlight from the coaches to take the the team out to a comedy club where we stayed out til 3 Am. This is probably the teams last relaxing day before the hard training push for the SEA Games in December. So everyone was really up for partying that night. It was a lot of fun hanging with the guys, and cracking up while I embarrassed myself on stage by singing karaoke to Sexy back and doing a dance off. Beer, well lots of it, gives you stupid courage.

Day 15: Fly Back to San Francisco. But not before, I was detained in the airport for having an overweight oversized bike case. They were going to charge me $750. That got me all stressed out and I had to unpack my bike and unload some extra gear. I finally got the weight down so I only had to shell out $150. Still, it sucked and got me all stressed out for my 20 hr flight back to SF. Not good. In the end, I got sick again and finally, had to take antibiotics to get over the bacterial infection. It was a fun trip, but I'm happy to be back home with my family. I really missed Jenna, Payton, and Aria. It was hard being away. I can't believe I'll be away for a month in Nov.-Dec while I compete in the Track World Cup Events in Sydney & Beijing, and the SEA Games in Thailand, and back to Manila to meet with the president. It's a hectic but exciting time.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Steve - You must learn to embrace the Balikbayan Box as your friend.