An unfortunate event fueled actress Bubbles Paraiso’s transformation into a determined Ironman

Text by and photos courtesy of Bubbles Paraiso

They say it takes a village to do something seemingly unthinkable. In my case, what a large village did it take.

When this year started, I had no idea I was going to be a triathlete. I mean sure, I was already slowly getting into running, but I didn’t know how to swim (I knew how to go from point A to B without drowning!) and biking was something I did for fun—in high heels. My journey into triathlon is something that you could call as accidental, literally.

This year I made it my resolution to just say yes to opportunities. So when Kuya Kim [Atienza] messaged me one Saturday night (after seeing my post about running around the neighborhood that day) inviting me to race with him and his group the next day, I said yes in a heartbeat. Only after saying yes did I remember to ask more pertinent questions.

Where’s the race? What time is it? What do I wear? I didn’t know that it was the start of my “you jump, I jump, ask questions later” spree.

How interval trainings feel like

My first 10K race done in 60 minutes and 10 seconds. With chika in between and that morning’s breakfast on the side of the road. I was on such an endorphin high that I couldn’t wait to do it again. The following week, Kuya Kim called again and, without any hesitation, I joined another 10K. In 59 minutes. Not bad.

“Bubs, join the Skyway Run in February! Do your first half marathon! I think you’re ready.” Of course, I said yes again. I had 21 days to train for my first 21K. My training group predicted that I was going to finish in two hours and 20 minutes more or less, but I was able to do it in two hours and seven minutes. I think it’s mostly because I badly needed to pee and refused to use the portalet so I just gunned it! After that race, I was hooked.

For the months that came, I was quite enjoying my new lifestyle. Yoga every day, running thrice a week, and a race here and there. Then I decided on a new goal: to run five half marathons this year and my first marathon next year.

Joining weekend runs became such a regular thing with our group that we started looking for races every week

And then triathlon season started. My training group started going on bike rides together and I felt that little thing called FOMO. They’ve been spurring me to get into triathlon, but I kept saying I don’t think it’s for me. I was reluctant. I wasn’t quite sure what was stopping me though. In May, I felt really left out of the group rides so one Wednesday night while wearing a cut-out dress, I walked into Trek Bicycle Store and rode a bike home. Yes, in my dress.

I wish I could say that after that moment, I got into triathlon. But no. I only bought the bike so I can join the bike rides. But for me, it was just something I was doing for fun. I wasn’t going to compete anytime soon. I was just biking to complement my run. Maybe I was in denial, maybe not.

The guys I train with are seasoned triathletes, so you could only imagine how strong and fast they already were. I, being the newbie who just wanted to make chika all the time, would try to chase them down and pace with them, just because, again, I didn’t want to have FOMO.

I never thought I’d be a serious cyclist. I only usually bikes for fun, and in heels!
Test drove the Trek roadie and ventured to Nuvali all by myself just to see how I’d fare. You can tell I’m not legit as I wasn’t wearing my bike shoes yet. Plus I was wearing designer sunnies not cycling ones


Post-run high

Later that month, I received an invite to join Ironman 70.3 in Cebu for an all-girl relay team with me as the runner. So for the next months, I trained on getting my run strong and fast while biking on the side, just to show moral support to my relay team’s biker, Sara Black. I also started to learn how to swim just for the sake of it. But no, my goals remain the same. I’m only going to concentrate on running for now. Triathlon can wait.

Yet in a sudden twist of fate, an accident changed everything.

Sara and I decided to enroll in a two-day tri camp with our coach Ige Lopez despite only doing one leg each. We wanted to feel it out and see if maybe one day we would want to conquer it. But on our very first bike ride out, as we were going downhill on one of the main roads, Sara crashed. It was such a bad fall. When the doctors said it was a hip fracture and would take eight weeks to recover, coach Ige looked at me and said “Its on you now.”

All my run training went out of the window as I had to step up and do the bike course now. I didn’t mind, really since I loved having the wind in my face anyway. But Cebu was only three weeks away, which meant I only had two weeks to train (one week to taper). Shit got so real that in those two weeks, I had to get a proper bike fit and learn as much as I could from the vets. Coach Ige never left my side to made sure I was ready to race that 90km course with flying colors. It was also within those two weeks that I decided that maybe I should be a triathlete. I changed my goals and decided I wanted to do my first triathlon race this year. Marathons can wait. I wanted all three.

My first taste of triathlon was doing the run leg of a 5150 race in June

It may have been because I was in the middle of a myotherapy session when it happened or maybe because I was hanging out too much with my training mates who are all seasoned triathletes but I ended up registering for a 5150 race only three weeks after Cebu. In the weeks leading up to Ironman 70.3, I focused on the bike, forgetting about the other race I had to prepare for. But our second place finish was the best way to whet my appetite for triathlon–although I knew that a podium finish as an individual racer would be close to impossible, especially since I was just learning how to swim.

I was nervous yet excited as my first ever triathlon approached. I only learned how to sight in swimming two days before. I wasn’t sure how it was going to be. That’s when my village of helpers stepped in. From friends offering their pools and a driver and a van so I won’t have to worry about driving on race day to last-minute transition training and breaking down my proper race nutrition, you name it, my Good Vibes Tri training group gave it.

Joey Marcelo and Jonah Rivera ‘adopted’ me on race day and made sure to stay behind me at the swim start just to calm my nerves. What great friends I have!

On race day, I was a nervous wreck. The mass swim start scared me to pieces but I was lucky to have two friends ‘adopt’ me and assured me that they would stay behind me at the start just to make sure I’m okay. But once the gun went off, I knew I was on my own.

The swim was hard. I felt as if I was going to drown. I got kicked in the face, swallowed a lot of water, and even threw up at some point. I wanted to give up. There was a voice inside my head that kept telling me I wasn’t ready. But another voice was telling me to keep going. When I emerged from the swim, I knew the hardest part (at least for me) was over.

Our official Ironman 70.3 Cebu relay team composed of Gretchen Fullido (swim), Tricia Espino (run), and I (bike). Our second place podium finish is something I will forever cherish

I’m happiest when I’m on my bike, so that steep uphill climb, albeit difficult, did not dampen my spirit and I kept the smile glued on my face. When it was time for the run, I made the rookie mistake of leaving my gels and ran back to get it, only to be able to take only one and the rest to fall out. The run was difficult due to my jello legs after the bike. It was during the run when I started questioning myself. ‘Why am I doing this to myself? Why am I pushing my body to the limit? Why did I pay to do this?’ then after a brief pause, the other voice said ‘because you can.’

Now I understand why people say triathletes are crazy. You really have to be to endure this sport. And as I sprinted and crossed that finish line, there was a surge of emotions that filled my heart, mind, and face. I couldn’t stop crying while smiling. Endorphins rushing through my blood.

Now I am hooked. Now, I am a triathlete. An accidental one, maybe. But I’m not going anywhere and I can’t wait until my next race.