Athletes test their mettle in Harlingen Triathlon

Travis M. Whitehead/Valley Morning Star Athletes from the Valley, across the state and even Mexico competed yesterday in the third annual Harlingen Triathlon Festival.

HARLINGEN — “Venga! Venga, Joe! All the way!”

Charlie Hernandez cheered his fellow athletes in Team Turbo as they ran or biked their way out of the starting gate or over the finish line.

The 3rd Annual Harlingen Triathlon Festival had just begun at Victor Park yesterday morning, with more than 250 triathletes participating in one of three events: the tri challenge, the short course and the long course. Each included varying lengths of a swim, a bike ride and a run.

“ It’s going good. I think we are blessed with the best weather this year,” said Edith Ellorimo, of Footworks RGV, which helped organize the event.

The Harlingen Triathlon Festival was presented by the City of Harlingen and Start To Finish Production LLC. Ellorimo was one of many cheering on the athletes.

Sweat poured off the participants as they rode in, dismounted their bikes and moved quickly into the run beneath a bright morning sun. They’d already been soaked by the swim portion of the event at Victor Pool. They seemed to be urged farther on their quest for challenge by the loudspeaker as it belted out “Beat It” “Oh What a Night” and other high-octane favorites.

Juan Adame of Weslaco leaned in slightly to accept a medal as one of the first finishers.

“ I feel great,” said Adame, 44. “It’s all been a personal challenge.”

He’d participated in the Harlingen event to prepare for a much longer triathlon next month in San Antonio.

“ This is something to prepare myself for it,” Adame said.

Triathlons seemed to be part of Adame’s routine.

“ It’s a way to keep myself fit, especially in the Valley where diabetes is so high,” he said.

For some, it’s a way to keep fit for fitness’s sake and the joy of a family activity. Audrey Garcia, 27, and her mother Meredith Tamayo, 54, drove from San Benito to complete the tri challenge together.

“ I think I did very well,” Garcia said. “I think I was a little bit more prepared as far as training mentally and physically.”

She’s competed in every Harlingen triathlon since it began three years ago.

“ Me and my mom, we do it together,” she said with a laugh.

Tamayo said her daughter started encouraging her to run some time ago and then it grew.

“ I started to train for the triathlon challenge last year,” she said. “I think it’s an important activity for people my age. It makes a difference.”

Many of the participants came from Houston, Austin, San Antonio and even Mexico. Jose Ruelas, 13, of Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, Mexico, has competed in triathlons for six years. This was his first in the U.S.

“ I’m very happy that I finished,” he said. He learned about the event online and his father, who is also his coach, agreed to bring him up.

So why is Ruelas so psyched about triathlons?

“ I like it. I want to be a champion,” said the youth, still catching his breath as the sweat poured off him.

His father couldn’t be happier with the boy’s talent and aspirations.

“ I am so proud,” said the elder Ruelas. “I like to see his effort.”

Later in the morning as the race drew to a close, Ellorimo expressed joy at its success.

“ It went well,” she said. “I am very happy.”

Everyone then gathered for the awards ceremony, but they all seemed to feel like their own champions for their efforts toward fitness, family, and future goals.