By Redg Candido

Meet Ferdinand Encarnacion, a cancer survivor who transformed himself into a progressive triathlete.


Meet Ferdinand Encarnacion, a 40-year-old progressive triathlete and cancer survivor.  He is called by many names like “Ferdz,”“Bong,” or,as his athlete friends call him,“IronSpark,” due to his perseverance and toughness despite all the trials he has gone through.  He thinks that it is never too late to pursue your goal.  So inspiring, right?  Let’s dive into his mind and be inspired…


How did you get into the sport? Tell us about your humble beginnings.


It all started in 2012, with my nephew in-law Xim Canlas Uy, when his momCecille wanted to introduce him to running and get him into an active lifestyle.  At first, my goal was simply to run with him, to motivate him, and watch over him when he would train during weekends in Clark. But her mom would sign us all up for races, eventuallymaking fun runs a family event to look forward to.

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One of many fun runs that the Canlas clan joined in 2012


What were the first few competitions that you joined?

This Exclusive Canlas Running Club got hooked not only in the Pampanga local races but also in Manila races like TAKBO.PH 21k, Adidas KOTR, RU Trilogy, etc.  Unknowingly, it has become a lifestyle and was considered a family outing.

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At 2XU Half Marathon Singapore
In 2013, my nephew decided to join a triathlon race.  At first, I had to call it quits because I do have riding skills but not swimming skills, but Xim had already booked us for the buddy category of the 2013 Subic Invitational Triathlon sprint distance race. To show my support for his newly developed active and healthy lifestyle, I started training. With barely 3 months of swim training, I raced with a swim capability of 200meters maximum straight swim distance. The swim course was a 2 x 500-meter loop with a “very deep abyss,” held at Ocean Adventure, Subic. I survived by swimming only when the buoy rope was underwater. The rest of the way, I did the infamous “rosary swim” –  literally praying the rosary by pulling the swim rope buoy throughout the 1000-meter swim course. It was quite a horrific experience but that challenged me to do better and train myself more, mastering the craft for future races.

After joining 2 more triathlon races (TU4 & SubIT 2014), I can honestly say that although it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks, it is not impossible.

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Subic International Triathlon 2012 with Xim and his cousin John Cruz.
Are you a member of a triathlon team?  How long you have been a member? 

In May of 2014, together with PJ Tan, spearheaded by Col. Elson Ballena, the TRI FORCE TRIATHLON CLUB was born. In just a few weeks other members joined in. A mix of rookies and vets merged into one team, training together, motivating each other, signing up for the same races, and proudly carrying the same colors during events. We basically coach ourselves but we are also blessed to train under Coach Jeff Valdez of Sante Barley every once in a while. There are times when I train alone but triathlon is best experienced when you’re with a team.



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CEBU IRONMAN 70.3 2016

What were the biggest challenges that you encountered as a triathlete and how did you overcome them?

During my first 70.3 experience at TU3 back in 2015, I was prepared for the event until the morning of race day, when I realized that I left my bike shoes. Good thing my nephew Carl Canlas was on his way to Subic to watch and brought his bike shoes with him.  But unfortunately, his cleats did not fit my pedals. So I finished my 90k ride with the cleats not clipped in.  It was very painful, like wearing a pair of leather shoes while running a half marathon.
Upon finishing the bike course, I immediately removed the bike shoes and ran to transition area with just my socks on, which was a big mistake because my socks grabbed all the dirt it could carry. This forced me to run the 21K under the scorching 12-noon heat of Sandbox, Pampanga without socks, resultingin multiple blisters. But thank God, I finished the race just 5 minutes before cut-off time despite the odds.

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with my wife, Cindy at TU3 in 2015.


Tell us your typical training week like from sun up to sun down?  Do you have your usual nutritional regimen when training?


During peak season:
Tuesdays and Thursdays – 7K Hill Run Training from 6pm to 7pm, a 2K straight swim with 1000m at moderate pace after dinner, home by 9pm, and lights out in an hour.

Wednesday – 15 to 21K long run with the team at 6pm after work followed by dinner.


Friday – Core workout at home and carbo-loading in preparation for a hard grind on the weekend.

Saturday – Brick training around 5:30am to 11am with a 90K straight ride and 15K run.

Sunday morning –  2K straight swim with 1K moderate swim in the middle with paddles.

Monday is my favorite – rest, recover, and massage.
During those training days, I make sure to have enough sleep and proper nutrition with the help of ENERVON ACTIV.  I take CARBGELS during training to help sustain my energy, especially for the long grinds.

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Group trainings with TRI FORCE


When the going gets tough and training is not going well, you get injured or sick, or you don’t perform at your best, how do you get yourself back on track?


Right after my workouts, I see to it that I replenish by hydrating and take in protein drinks such as ENERVON HP to help my muscles recover faster. However, during the times when fatigue would catch up on me, I take a day or 2 to rest with proper nutrition and a lot of sleep.


What’s the greatest lesson that you’ve learned from your coach?


There are no short cuts to get where I am today.  Prepare my body, mind, and soul to work in unity towards the same goal.  Respect the sport, if I don’t, it may cause more harm than good.


What’s your greatest dream as a triathlete?


As a Triathlete and Cancer Survivor, I would simply like to motivate others to live an active and healthy lifestyle. To value one’s health by keeping away from bad vices and discovering instead the wonders of what the human body can do; to live life to the fullest by not letting the present come to pass and not allowing fear to get the best of what life has to offer.


In all sports, why did you choose triathlon?


Triathlon helps us harmonize our mind, body, and soul as we become closer to God and witness his wonderful creation through our very own experiences.


“As we SWIM the deepest seas and be at awe with the wonders of what lies beneath.
As we RIDE through different hills, valleys, and mountains and be mesmerized by the beauty of the countrysides and places we never thought were there.
As we RUN and fathom how beautiful the human body works and we learn to expand our limits.”