Chang Hitalia with the author, Karen Silva Crisostomo
Most people use “getting older” as an excuse for deteriorating health, being out of shape and for slowing down, but not for Celma Hitalia who shows us how to live life regardless of age.
When Celma — or “Chang” as she is fondly called by fellow athletes — hit her forties, she felt she was overweight and decided to join a running group in order to get rid of the unwanted pounds. She thus began joining fun runs.
She enjoyed it and started increasing her distances. It was after she finished her first 10k that she realized she had fallen in love with the sport. From there she started increasing her run targets, eventually reaching ultramarathon distances. What started out as a desire to simply start living a healthy lifestyle quickly transitioned into a full-blown love-affair with running and eventually with multisport.
IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO START
Back in 2010, when Chang was 45 years old, she became interested in doing triathlons. The thought of doing swim-bike-run all in one event both fascinated and excited her but she was also overwhelmed with the demands of the sport in terms of time, cost, effort, and skill. Her first challenge was cycling. She bought herself a second hand bike and learned the ropes of competitive cycling versus the leisure biking she knew as a youngster. Her next challenge was the swim portion. She did not know how to swim at all so, she joined Swimming 101 organized by her running group. Putting her heart and mind into it, she eventually learned the strokes and kicks of swimming.
NEVER GIVE UP
Chang describes herself as having an “unrelenting nature.” This is actually an understatement. When she began to train, she encountered several crashes while riding her road bike, one of which even sent her to the Emergency Room. She did not allow any of these falls to stop her nor bruise her ego. Instead, these crashes challenged her to keep getting back on the saddle and continue training harder. The hard work she put into both swimming and biking, combined with her love for running, soon began to pay off as she started excelling in the various swim-bike-run events she joined.
52 IS THE NEW 25
Now at 52, Chang’s power and energy levels surpass many women half her age. Six years into her triathlon journey, Chang continues to amaze the whole triathlon community by continuously and consistently finishing at the top not only in her age group but also in the overall female category. She has completed two (2) full IRONMAN distances, eleven (11) IRONMAN 70.3’s, and several big local races as well.
Just this March 2017, Chang did back-to-back events: Century Tuna IRONMAN 70.3 in Subic (March 12) and the Atleta Ako Women’s Aquathlon (March 19), again garnering the top spot for both.
All these achievements are the result of discipline, hardcore training, and perseverance, paving the way for her qualification to the highly prestigious and much coveted slot at the IRONMAN World Championships in Kona, Hawaii this coming October 14, 2017.
BE THE BEST VERSION OF YOU
Chang works full time and takes care of her family. Amidst her busy schedule, she still finds time to mentor fellow athletes by training and sharing strategies with them. A typical day for her starts with either a run or a bike ride (or doing brick training) at 5:30am to 7:30am, go to work, then swim 2 to 3 times a week after office hours. Her weekends are for long runs and long bike rides.
Chang shares: “I challenge myself to give my very best in everything that I do and in every race I join.” Her mindset is: “I want to beat my personal best. I want to prove to myself that I get better each time I race.”
Chang stresses that age shouldn’t matter when it comes to starting a healthy lifestyle and becoming the best version of oneself. She hopes that more than the number of races she has finished and won, that her life story will inspire others to dream big and accomplish bigger goals. For Chang, being able to do that would be the most significant difference she can make as a triathlete.