For most, there’s at least one thing that comes as easily as breathing. It could be singing or dancing for some, playing video games or racing cars for others. For Lea Coline “LC” Langit, there were three: swimming, biking, and running.
She was only 9 years old when LC was given intense swimming training. Though the last one in the family to take up the sport – after her sister and cousins – she proved early on that she was no straggler in the fitness department. Just a year after, she was inducted as a member of the national swimming team.
For the next 8 years, her life revolved around starting blocks and podium finishes. At 17, her coach began to notice a performance plateau. LC shared, “So my coach went, ‘The national team is looking for a good swimmer. Why don’t you try triathlon?’ I didn’t even know about triathlon, actually, until I was there and the coach was like, ‘Oh, just run around the oval in ULTRA (PhilSports Arena). Let’s get your time.’”
Unsurprisingly, the young athlete made the cut and found herself on yet another national team, albeit now for three sports rather than one. With them, LC set some of her best times and distances as she made the rounds of international competitions, such as the Asian Games, Asian Aquathlon, and the World Championships.
To date, her best showings were recorded during the 2009-2010 period: placed 6th overall in the women’s category at the Ironman 70.3 in Singapore and ranked 10th in the Women’s Elite category by the Asian Triathlon Confederation.
Come 2011, LC began feeling ironically less and less attached to the active life. Discouraged and unmotivated, she went months without touching her bike. In early 2014, she “found my groove again” while training in Northern Mindanao province, Lanao del Norte.
But if there was a positive take-away from an admittedly low point in her competitive career,LC points to her new role as coach. For most of her life, the triathlete was at the receiving end of instructions, criticisms, and praise. The reversal has been a refreshing change for LC.
With her student-athlete past, she is more attuned to her young charges’ needs and wants – especially when they act out. The hardest thing about coaching, she said, is dealing with different emotions and different people. It’s a task that leaves her emotionally and physically spent most days. But it’s one that pays off in its own satisfying way.
Teaching is fulfilling. You know, when I see my kids or athletes, ‘Oh, yea! I got my personal best!’ Even though they’re not Olympians, you know, hindi talaga competitive – it’s really good. It’s a different feeling than winning gold.
And winning gold is something that she’s all too familiar with. But of her numerous wins, LC cited the 2009 Alpe d’Huez in France as her most memorable. “During the run, someone passed me who I really didn’t want to pass me. So I was like, (whispers) ‘F—!’ You know?” she shared with a laugh.
The triathlete told herself, “’I can go faster!’ I was trying. Towards the end, she beat me. But it was really the toughest race I had. I finished 9th overall, but it was a humbling experience. I learned a lot the whole race.” The real highlight for the athlete, though, was getting the chance to compete against Olympic and world champions.
To compete with the greats, LC was lucky enough to be taken under the tutelage of legendary triathlon coach, Brett Sutton. Alongside world champion Chrissie Wellington and other triathletes of the same caliber, the young Filipina trained in Subic, Switzerland, and South Korea.
From those personalities, LC learned, “Working hard’s gonna pay off. You have to eat, breathe, and sleep triathlon. There’s no point in not enjoying it also.”
In recent years, more and more Filipinos have flocked to triathlon meets and discovered the high that LC and her competitors have long been getting from the sport. The media exposure and the sustained interest in triathlon are things that won’t go away anytime soon, LC predicts. “It’s not a fad. It’s just a lifestyle that boomed. A lot of people have had their lives changed because they got into triathlon.”
Now, events are held all over the country with an ever diversifying list of participants. It’s the latest challenge for LC, who is set on making it to the number 1 spot on the growing list of female triathletes in the Philippines.
“I want to be on top of my game again. That’s the thing, kasi I know I can do better. I know I can do better than what I did two years ago.” Her plan? Improve on consistency and concentrate on the major races such as the Ironman half distances and CamSur Challenge.
The past couple of years have not been as intense as her previous ones. But consider them LC’s well-deserved break from sports. Even world champions need a pause every now and then. Once back to full competitive form, no doubt LC will make us forget that she ever stopped racing at all.
– Feature article from www.redbull.com