Randy, Nina, Rigo, and Rafa on their exciting journey in the sport

By JV Wong | Photos by Jun Mendoza and Jamil Buergo courtesy of Randy Kanapi

I met Randy Kanapi in college when we were both taking the same organizational communication course in De La Salle University. Both of us were not into any intense sports and our goal then was to pass our thesis on time. I got to touch base with Randy again when my husband Wowie and him were officemates. Randy, during his working life in Intel, was already active as a triathlete. I would see his inspiring posts on Facebook—plus his cubicle filled with race numbers. I must admit that his triathlon journey has inspired me to try it out.

In Team Kanapi, however, it’s not only Randy who does all the races, but his entire family, too. I had the pleasure to meet each family member and would also like you to meet his wife Nina and sons 13-year-old Rigo and seven-year-old Rafa. What’s great about their story is how they support one another as they pursue and face the challenges that any triathlon races would bring.

“Triathlon has gained a lot of momentum over the years but needs more momentum from the grassroots level as well as in the schools. We have track and field and swimming varsity teams in most schools, but triathlon varsity teams are very rare,” says Randy

Tell us a bit about your triathlon background and what you love about being a triathlete? 

Randy: My journey began as a runner in 2009 when I was trying to lose weight and manage stress. I was joining every race I could muster and had done several marathons. In 2010, I had an Achilles injury from the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon, which had me limping for a while. I shifted to cycling during this period, and never even thought of triathlon as I couldn’t swim longer than 25 meters straight without panting. Living down South, there were a lot of triathletes in the area, and I was encouraged to try it out. I started with duathlons until I taught myself how to swim through Youtube. Later on (with the help of my sister-in-law who was a varsity swimmer), I joined my first sprint race in Subit in 2011.  My goal was just to finish and to stay alive [laughs].

Rafa Kanapi

Although I never envision myself finishing on the podium, the thrill of a triathlon race cannot be described by words. At the start, yes, it was the image [of] people calling you a a triathlete [that encouraged me considering the small number of people who do it]. As I spend more time in multisport, it has also instilled discipline and an appreciation for a healthier lifestyle—it was the close-knit group of fellow triathletes continuously supporting you before, during, and after the race; it was the opportunity to improve race after race; it was about focus and continuous learning. Ultimately, it was about making new friends. The experience of a triathlon race was just awesome.

For years that you have been joining triathlon races, what are the lessons you learned along the way? 

Randy: A lot of people say its all in the mind. I thought the same when I started and when I joined my first Ironman 70.3 in Cebu. I didn’t have enough mileage and training invested in it but thought I could wing it. The mental part is there, yes, but seriously, one has to really train for it and put in time. Even the training and timing have to have some logic to it. I started off without any program and sure I’d finish races, but there is a difference between finishing and finishing strong.

But the best thing I realized is to involve my family. This was one of my biggest challenges as it meant balancing time with them especially when races were approaching. 

“When I started out, I learned how to bike quite late and had a hard time because my bike was heavier than most in my age group. I had to get used to the speed the others were going. The open water was also a very tough challenge to overcome both physically and mentally because I was so used to the pool. When you are in the open water, you cannot control the conditions,” says Rigo

And don’t get sucked into spending too much. Triathlon can be an expensive sport. Let’s not deny that. Registration fees, hotels, gear, and the bike. At the end of the day, it’s the individual and not the gear that will determine the results. 

Lastly, set your goals. When I started out, I just wanted to finish. Some aim higher while most will want to improve their times from the last race. Know your weaknesses and how to adjust accordingly to meet your desired goal.

Rigo Kanapi

Let’s talk about the recently concluded Animo Interschool Triathlon, which you have been part of as a contributor and co-organizer. Share with us what makes this event significant in the growth of the triathlon community in the country.

Randy: The Animo Interschool Triathlon is the country’s first interscholastic triathlon event and the first triathlon to be held in the newly opened Vermosa Sports Hub. This was the brainchild of my fellow triathlete Gabby Cui along with Triathlon Association of the Philippines and De La Salle Zobel. There used to be an Animo Triathlon years back, which ran for sometime and became the breeding ground for future triathletes, some of whom are now members of our Philippine team.

Triathlon has gained a lot of momentum over the years but needs more momentum from the grassroots level as well as in the schools. We have track and field and swimming varsity teams in most schools, but triathlon varsity teams are very rare; hence, this is about creating awareness also for kids, parents, and most importantly, schools. We had over 60 students competing across over 20 schools. We also involved parents in organizing this race.

Nina, how did you become a supermom to Rigo and Rafa? How do you support your kids in pursuing their passion for the sport? 

Nina: I do not consider myself a supermom. I just do what I do to support the dreams of my children. It can be tiring, almost as if I myself joined the triathlon race. I encourage them to be the best that they can become. Other than the financial support invested in this sport, I believe the most important support a parent can give is to listen to them. Listen to their game plan and believe in it no matter what.

Nina cannot stress how much she feels like a triathlete herself

Randy and I continue to push them to give it their best but never pressure them too much to the point that they might lose their love for the sport. Another area I reinforce is spiritual support—not just praying for them but also teaching them to pray for a safe and strong race each time.

For moms out there who have triathlete kids, what should they keep in mind as their kids engage in this adventure? 

Nina: Here are my eight mom-of-triathlete-kids tips:

1. If your child is 100 percent committed to the sport, moms should be 100 times more committed.

2. Do not pamper them so much. Eventually they need to be independent.

3. Push them but do not pressure them

4. There are many distractions. Remind them to focus.

5. Be there in all their highs, but more importantly, be there during the lows. 

6. Celebrate their victories and losses.

7. Constantly communicate that they can be anything they want to be, accomplish anything they want to do as long as they believe in themselves

8. Be prepared to support them as if you were racing. It pays to keep fit and start a healthy lifestyle too.

Hello Rigo! Share with us your journey to becoming a triathlete.

Rigo: I started triathlon back in 2012. I tried basketball and soccer but preferred a sport in which I was competing against myself. I became the only triathlete in my De La Salle Zobel batch.

When I started out, I learned how to bike quite late and had a hard time because my bike was heavier than most in my age group. I had to get used to the speed the others were going. The open water was also a very tough challenge to overcome both physically and mentally because I was so used to the pool. When you are in the open water, you cannot control the conditions.

I had a hard time getting used to the training because I had to balance time for my studies and my me time. I would also get tired at the end of the day because we would have different training drills for swimming, running, cycling, brick, and core. I would complain about training but my mom, dad, and my coach would be patient and explain the importance of training: that we need to always improve ourselves if we want to excel and be competitive.

I’m proud of my family because we always support each other. My dad prepares our stuff and tells us to do our best. He trains me for the races and guides me. My mom is there all the time to cheer for me and also bring my stuff even if it gets very hot. My mom would say it’s like she also raced. It feels so good to see all of them at the finish line, and then after the races we spend some family time together,” says Rafa

What do you want to tell kids who are aspiring to become triathletes?

Rigo: First, you need to put time and discipline into it. Second, you need to train hard. Third, the sport will teach you how to be independent and focused. Finally, learn to have fun.

Hello Rafa! What’s the most fun for you between swim, bike, and run?

Rafa: I enjoy the run part most because it’s where I am the fastest, and I get to smile in front of so many cameras. I hope to improve my swim and bike though. My bike is quite heavy so I hope my dad will get me a lighter and faster one soon. I’m the only triathlete in my batch! When my kuya and I are done with our race, we cheer for daddy.

What makes you so proud about Team Kanapi? 

Rafa: I’m proud of my family because we always support each other. My dad prepares our stuff and tells us to do our best. He trains me for the races and guides me. My mom is there all the time to cheer for me and also bring my stuff even if it gets very hot. My mom would say it’s like she also raced. It feels so good to see all of them at the finish line, and then after the races we spend some family time together.  

Randy, what’s your advice for dads out there who would like their kids to be triathletes? 

Randy: Save up! Be patient with your kids. Condition them to race against themselves. Teach them to eventually be independent and stand on their own. It is a training ground for life’s lessons: at times they will be on top, at times at the bottom. Always be there during these moments. Emphasize to your kids the value of sportsmanship and humility. Invest in a coach. This is a technical sport so it’s best to have proper coaching. Just like anything kids want to pursue support and believe in them at all times. It’s a race yes, but teach them to enjoy it, savor it, and have fun.