Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily putting a hold on all endurance events, Ines Santiago was one of the most feared triathletes in her age group. A strong work ethic and dogged perseverance saw Ines gradually mature from newbie triathlete aiming “just to finish” to a veteran many routinely saw as aiming “to finish first”. But with all races temporarily in limbo, these days Ines focuses on maintaining her fitness and a positive outlook despite all the challenges we face today.
Ines was kind enough to sit down and share with us her thoughts and experiences on running and its impact on her life.
What keeps you busy?I am a teacher by profession. I also run a garment manufacturing and retail company that specializes in hand-embroidered and hand-smocked children's clothes.
When and how did you discover running?I had two prior unsuccessful, random attempts at jogging/running before the “A-ha!” moment, which came roughly 5 years later than the first few attempts.
I was under a lot of stress at that time and having a very bad day. I wanted to go out for a drink, but I didn’t have the luxury of time to do so because I had to be home to attend to the kids, both of whom were very young then.
I thought I’d just step out of the house for a quick breather and try to sweat it out. So, I ended up doing a very easy run-walk which lasted for roughly less than 10 minutes. When I got home, I felt really good!
So the next day, I did the same thing. That’s how I discovered the joy of running. The more I included it in my daily routine, the better I felt, not only physically but also spiritually, emotionally and mentally.
What other sports were you into before running?
I was never really into sports during my childhood and youth. I was exposed to sports as a passive observer because my brother and cousins were always active in their respective varsities, but I was never inclined to join them. I was perfectly comfortable just watching them from the sidelines.
When I reached 2nd year high school, I wanted to be exempted from P.E. classes, so I took a look at the list of varsity teams to check which one needed players and had the least demands. It was the tennis team. I enrolled in a tennis camp that summer so I could learn the basics of the sport. I then tried out for the varsity, and since not many in my school played tennis or thought of trying out for the team, I got accepted by default. In my two years there, I don't think I was ever able to play a game during inter-school and provincial meets, thank God!
During my early college years, my sport was, believe it or not, figure skating. I just wanted to be able to learn how to do a Waltz jump, and so when I was able to achieve that, I stopped. In my later college years, I enrolled in a gym to attempt to get fit and force myself to exercise, but most of my time there was spent lounging by the pool and enjoying the spa amenities that gym members had access to. I never really got hooked on any sport to be able to experience any consistent training, nor did I feel the need to and have the motivation to exercise.
What’s your favorite distance?
My favorite distance in triathlon is the 70.3 which ends with a 21km run. I hardly join run races as I enjoy racing triathlons more.
I prefer trying to maintain a comfortably hard effort throughout the duration of a long race over pushing my threshold as needed in shorter races.
How would you describe yourself as a runner when you first started out, and how you are now?
When I first started out, I would always try to go as fast as I could. I didn't know the concept of pacing. Some would probably argue that I still don't know how to pace properly but I'd like to think that I'm wiser now. In the beginning, I always wanted to better myself, even during training, which is not really a sustainable and smart way to train. I also did not fully adhere to the importance of recovery. I suppose you could say that I've matured as a runner and as an athlete in general and have embraced smart training.
How do you balance training in your life?
For most days, my time is pretty flexible. When schedule and duties permit, I like to finish my workouts in the morning so that I have the rest of the day to focus on other responsibilities such as work and my kids. I also consider training as a time for me to clear my mind. It's a form of meditation for me, therefore an ideal way to start my day. I truly believe that it’s important for every person to allot a certain amount of time per day for self-care, and for me this is what training is. It’s self-care.
What’s your favorite run workout?
I particularly enjoy tempo runs. It’s an exhilarating feeling to find yourself in that sweet spot, the thin line between pain and comfort. This is the type of run that feels much like meditation. It zones me out and on occasion, puts me in the Alpha state of mind. It’s liberating to experience this state, where my legs are just flowing without much thought and it feels like I’m running in a daydream.
From a training standpoint, these runs help me build endurance, as well as develop resilience.
What gets you going through a particularly hard run?
What gets me through a particularly hard run is my mindset. I know that most of the pain and suffering experienced during a hard training day, so long as it is not injury or illness-induced, is bound to pass if you soldier on. There will be hard days, there will be bad days, but these are the days that reap the most rewards, especially in terms of mental strength.
There is an unrivaled sense of satisfaction that comes with nailing or even just completing a workout, and this outweighs whatever excuse my mind comes up with. I also ask myself, "How bad do you want it?". It's this question that usually snaps me out of mental-whining and recalibrates my focus.
I often also take the opportunity to engage in conversation with God. I feel that it’s the best time to pray and connect spiritually.
What’s your weekly mileage?Currently, my weekly run mileage is less than 20kms on the average.
What’s your next race, and how are you preparing for it given the COVID-19 restrictions?
My next race is IRONMAN Philippines. Like most, I spent most of the 2020 training season indoors. I just focused on short workouts and tried to maintain my fitness. I had close to zero runs for a couple of months and concentrated on short indoor cycling sets. Now that we are gaining more access to the outdoors, I am slowly able to get back to my normal training routine. I will start to build my endurance through mileage very carefully so as not to compromise my immune system. The race is 3 months from now. I believe I have enough time to prepare and enjoy myself in the process. I'm just grateful and happy to be able to get back into the routine, particularly running, and with a healthy dose of motivation.
What’s your On Running shoe of choice?
My favorite running shoe is the Cloudflow. It is my go-to running shoe for both training and racing, whether short or long distance. This is the first On Running shoe that I tried in 2017 and it's what I've continued using since.