"Aabot ka talaga sa punto na sasabihin mo sa sarili mo, ayoko na hindi ko kaya ‘to. You just need to tell yourself, 'Hindi, kaya mo ‘yan. Tinrain mo ‘yan. Kakayanin mo ‘yan."
When people hear the name Kara David, her documentaries, journalism accolades, and scholarly life as chair of the Department of Journalism at the UP College of Mass Communications usually come to mind. But beyond the hard-hitting journalist that we see on the screen is a woman that wants to take in all of life's experiences way beyond her title.
Recently, the celebrated reporter won third place in the Mt. Mayon Triathlon held in Legazpi City on Aug. 14. The standard five hours and 30 minutes race features 40km biking, 10km running, and 1.5km swimming, with David celebrating a podium finish for her age category.
We got to talk to Kara a few days after her win to take a peek at her multi-hyphenated life and why living isn't so much about the speed, but our endurance.
Journey of a triathlete
Kara began her triathlon journey in 2015 after being encouraged by her mountain bike group, the TriKings. Having spent her childhood summers in Zambales, she was also skilled in swimming. She began as a relay athlete, not competing in full triathlons just yet.
"I’m not a fast swimmer, I’m not a strong swimmer, but I always survive it and I don’t get scared in the water, which is really important," she shared with PhilSTAR L!fe. "So, for some time I was really just a swimmer for the time. Tapos, eventually sabi nila 'Bat hindi ka na rin mag-bike?"
Kara then began her journey as a triathlete through the 2018 Ironman 70.3 Championship, also known as the Half Ironman. The long-distance triathlon races is organized by the World Triathlon Corporation and only cover half of the full Olympic-level Ironman.
Sa media, ang palaging sinasabi sa amin is you're only as good as your last work. You need to be better. Galingan mo pa. Sipagan mo pa. Kasi tama yung ginagawa mo, so kailangan mo pang magsipag.
Participants had to finish the entire 70.3 kilometers in under eight hours, and Kara was almost cut off with only eight minutes to go.
"I was happy that I was able to finish the half Ironman. Tapos pinromise ko sa sarili ko na gagawin ko siya ulit pero with a better time. Pinromise ko 'yung sarili ko, and then the pandemic happened."
With the pandemic slowing down life as we know it, Kara also experienced a shift in her triathlon journey. She found herself being unable to exercise and resorting to at-home physical activities: "Every night I would walk or run with my husband pero parang–wala, konti-konti lang kasi dito lang naman sa bakuran nagtatakbo-takbo. Mukha kang tanga, diba?" the journalist quipped.
Although we were all unsure how life would get back to normal, it soon started opening up for Kara when triathlons began announcing their comeback in 2021.
"Nung nakita ko na nagbabalik na 'yung mga karera, sinabi ko sa sarili ko na babalik din ako. Because I need it, I need it dahil ilang taon na ba ako ngayon, 48 going on 49. I’m turning 49 next month!" she exclaimed.
"Ayaw ko maging 50... Ayaw kong ma-reach 'yung aking half century that I’m not healthy. Parang gusto ko Alice Dixson, 'di ba? Nag-50 si Alice Dixson, pero pwede pa mag two-piece! Although hindi naman ako mag two-piece. I just want to be fit when I turn 50."
From there, Kara sought the help of celebrity fitness trainer and veteran triathlon coach, Jojo “Jomac” Macalintal. Kara would go on to train every day for the past five months leading up to the Mt. Mayon Triathlon, waking up as early as 5 in the morning to exercise and get her work done in the afternoon. She only took breaks every Monday.
Every time Kara had to do field reporting for days on end, she would still find the time to train even when she was far away from her coach: "Pag may gym, magba-bike ako. Or 'pag may swimming pool, magsi-swim ako. Pero ganoon pa rin, tatakbo pa rin ako, gigising parin ako ng ganoon kaaga. So, discipline siya talaga–sobrang discipline siya."
The unexpected win
The Mt. Mayon Triathlon, which Kara had been waiting for years and training vigorously for months, had finally arrived on August 14, 2022. Her only goal was to actually prepare herself to finish in her own time.
"It’s just a race para lang to prepare you for bigger races. Ganun lang 'yung mindset ko sa Mt. Mayon Triathlon. I need to feel the water again. 'Yun lang talaga 'yung mission ko, makatapos at ma-prove sa sarili kong kaya ko pa ulit kumarera," Kara shared.
After three hours of running, swimming, and biking to beat her former time, Kara celebrated with her fellow racers and soaked in the enjoyment of achieving a healthier physique. But little did Kara know, she was in for a surprise.
"Noong awarding, noong sinabi na 'Okay, now we’re going to award the female category aged 45 to 49.' Tapos ako, nakikitawa-tawa lang, nakiki-video-video, kasi excited ako for my other teammates na nanalo," she shared.
"Biglang sabi niya, 'On third place, with the time of 3 hours and 53 seconds.' Alam ko na na 'yun 'yung time ko! Kasi nakita ko naman sa relo ko e. Nakita ko naman sa relo ko na ang time ko ay 3:53. Sabi ko 'Oh my God!' Ganoon talaga ako, sumigaw talaga ako nang malakas."
"Tapos biglang sabi niya 'Kara David!' Tapos [sabi ko] 'Ako yun?! Ako yun?! Ako yun?!' Tapos nagtatalon-talon ako. Talon ako nang talon para akong nanalo sa raffle."
Ayaw kong ma-reach yung aking half century that I’m not healthy. Parang gusto ko Alice Dixson, diba? Nag-50 si Alice Dixson, pero pwede pa mag two-piece!
"Just to be able to finish those things, to achieve those things, parang malaking bagay na. Tapos sobrang bonus pa 'yung makita mo na, shocks! Strong na pala ako! Lumakas na ako," Kara exclaimed.
In the photos, Kara can be seen beaming widely on the podium. A true testament that good things come when you least expect it but work hard for it nevertheless.
Athletecism and journalism
With years of media work, a Peabody award, and endless reportage under her belt, Kara doesn't see the end of the finish line just yet—both in journalism and as a triathlete.
She compares her accolades to the exhiliration of being an athlete, and how huge achievements have to serve as a reminder to keep going, rather than to be complacent in your craft.
"Hindi ibig sabihin na porke you did well on this documentary, pwede ka nang magpahinga at pwede ka nang gumawa ng mediocre stuff in the coming days. Hindi. Dahil ang galing mo sa documentary na ‘to, galingan mo pa dun sa mga susunod. Kaya mo naman pala, e. Kaya mo pang mas magaling pa," she said.
Get more experiences. Yung laban ka lang nang laban nang laban. Whether you fail or not, yung mga experiences na ito, nagbbuild up ‘yan eh.
"Sa media, ang palaging sinasabi sa amin is, 'You’re only as good as your last work.' You need to be better. You need to be better tomorrow. Galingan mo pa. Sipagan mo pa. Kasi tama 'yung ginagawa mo, so kailangan mo pang magsipag."
With her third-place win, Kara is now eyeing to participate in one triathlon a month until she reaches another record at the 2022 Ironman competition. She also wants to make it clear that being a triathlete is different than any other race because there's no pressure to be better than your peers.
Your mission is not to beat the competition, your mission is to beat yourself," Kara said, about to pertain to another journalism reference.
"Akala nila, magkakaaway kaming mga reporter. Hindi. Magkakaibigan, nagtutulungan pa nga. Kasi ang iniisip mo lang, mapaganda mo lang ‘yung mismong istorya mo. That you come up with a better story compared to your last story. Ganun din ang mindset ko going into a race. Ang mission ko lang makatapos and to beat my previous time."
At the end of our talk, Kara left wise words that not only apply to journalists and athletes but whoever's participating in this rat race called life.
"Kailangan kumuha ka lang nang kumuha ng maraming experience sa buhay," she concluded.
"Wag kang maging kampante in your comfort zone. Go out there and just you know. Get more experiences. 'Yung laban ka lang nang laban nang laban. Whether you fail or not, yung mga experiences na ito, nagbi-build up ‘yan eh."
True enough, Kara David's story is proof of the good that comes when you move at your own pace and on your own terms, taking it all in as you go.