The best moments come when triathlete Jayline Balatibat pushes past the pain
By Eric Nicole Salta | Photos courtesy of Herbalife
Looking at Jayline Balatibat doesn’t give you the impression that this 32-year-old is capable of conquering the 226.2-kilometer Challenge Roth. Her gentle demeanor, diminutive frame, and delightful laugh debunk the commanding, monstrous force residing within her.
A trade merchandising and marketing manager by profession, Balatibat grew up in a household that prized an active lifestyle, which clearly made a difference in Balatibat’s state of mind especially during her formative years. “In high school, I was active during intramurals. I would play basketball, football, and softball,” she says, confirming that she was part of UP-Diliman’s table tennis varsity.
“Since kids, we were exposed to sports. My parents were really open to us enjoying the outdoors.” But what Balatibat needed more than anything was a chance to showcase her skills on a bigger stage, which came when she met Herbalife coach and triathlete Omar Paredes. Now part of the Herbalife team, Balatibat’s calm energy, especially on the run, boasts a potential that could wreak havoc in the global stage. She just needs to figure out why she’s doing triathlon. “Aside from making ourselves fit and happy, it’s really difficult to say. I’m not sure really,” she says with a wry smile.
How was Challenge Roth for you?
It was really challenging because of the weather. It was summer but for us who live in the tropics, it’s still cold. Not as extreme as coach Omar’s experience at Norseman Xtreme Triathlon. The ride was windy but I enjoyed the run. I was aiming for a 13-hour finish but managed 12:34, almost an hour faster than my Ironman Langkawi performance. It was my best time for the full distance.
Was there a point in the race when you wanted to quit?
Yes, a lot. Especially during the swim leg. I’m not a strong swimmer; the water was cold and it wasn’t an open-water swim. It was in a canal so it was heavy and you had to wear a wetsuit. There was a point when I felt like I wasn’t moving forward. I had to stop every 300 meters just to check my time and see how far I was from the finish. Luckily I finished and it’s within my expected time. On the bike course, meron akong pagkakamali kasi ginalaw ko ‘yung saddle ko before the race so during the bike leg, masakit na talaga siya kasi naiba ‘yung position. I wanted to get off the bike. I had to psyche myself to get through it. Natapos naman ako. Surprisingly I was 30 minutes ahead of my target time. In the run, I still felt okay and I think I did well. I rarely join marathons and my run in Germany was only my second and I did 30 minutes better.
Your training for Challenge Roth was very specific. What kind of training did you do?
I learned that I was going to be able to join Roth in December 2015 so my formal training started in March 2016. The race was in July 2016 so I needed three months to really prepare for it. On weekdays, since I have an eight-to-five day job, I started training around six or seven in the evening after office hours and finished around nine. Usually an hour and a half to two hours per day. And then I devoted my weekends to longer rides and runs outdoors.
There was a point when I felt like I wasn’t moving forward. I had to stop every 300 meters just to check my time and see how far I was from the finish
Was that your first time competing at Challenge Roth?
Yes it was but not my first time competing at that distance. My first full distance triathlon was in 2014 in Ironman Malaysia.
You said that you were targeting Challenge Roth for some time now. Why? What’s the appeal of that race for you?
Because I’ve heard from other friends and triathletes that it’s really prestigious in Germany. The government supports it as do the local community. It’s highly rated in Germany so if you’re a Challenge Roth finisher, there’s that sense of prestige. It’s also hard to get in you know. Let’s say once they open the registration, it will all be gone and closed in a minute. We were lucky that we managed to get in.
So there’s no qualifying aspect to it?
There is for Europeans but for other athletes, it’s just hard to get in because of the massive interest. Some were asking if I got a slot because I placed first at the Challenge race held in Naga, Camarines Sur. They thought it was a qualifying race. It wasn’t really, but we worked hard to get into the registration.
Is there anyone else in the family who’s into the sport or have athletic backgrounds?
We’re three girls. They were the ones who started doing triathlon early on. Our youngest started around 11 and my older sister at 19 but I’m a late bloomer so parang ako talaga ‘yung [athlete]. They’re still racing. In Challenge Roth I was with my older sister and then our youngest is a doctor so whenever she has spare time to race, she would. Siguro competitive talaga kami. We would also finish in the Top 2 or 3 pero sila talaga ‘yung nauna sa triathlon.
On the bike course, meron akong pagkakamali kasi ginalaw ko ‘yung saddle ko before the race so during the bike leg, masakit na talaga siya kasi naiba ‘yung position. I wanted to get off the bike. I had to psyche myself to get through it. Natapos naman ako
But now, you’re the one who’s leading!
[laughs] Siguro rin kasi it’s not an easy sport. So when they started doing triathlon, I was still studying in UP-Diliman so it was hard for me to financially support myself. Then when I started working and can finally support myself, that’s when I invested in and pursued the sport.
What’s your strongest discipline?
I’m not like [fellow Herbalife triathlete] Lezette Albarote but I would say my edge is my run. Usually that’s where I catch up. I’m not a good swimmer, I’m an average biker but on the run I can crank it up to snatch a podium finish.
What is your triathlon dream?
Of course Kona or one championship leg. To be able to qualify in one of those championships races. Joining itself is really hard because you have to finish on top of your age group at the qualifying races.