Shangrila Rendon embodies guts, power, beauty and courage. From having no athletic background, she has turned herself into a world record holder and world-class ultra triathlete.
Before Triathlon: At age 17, after emigrating from Philippines to USA, having no money and no mode of transportation, I walked a total of 1 hour every day to my first job in United States for 6 months. At 19, when I was able to afford gym membership, I spent 15 minutes running on a treadmill before work. I prioritized studies and earning money to be able to pay for education, which left me no time to participate in any sports during college. My first racing experience occurred only when my friend invited me to run a 10k at age 24. At age 25, I started running marathons and had increased the number of marathons I ran in a year as I reached 28 years old. Due to the fear that I may injure myself, the idea of cross-training, particularly training for triathlon was born.
Start of Triathlon: Preparing to race my first triathlon did not come easy for me. I had to first face my fear of water, learn how to swim, buy a road bike, and learn how to clip and unclip my cycling shoes. I did not have a coach and had to learn on my own, finding solutions from my mistakes and experiences. I had no confidence in swimming and was always the last athlete out of the water. I fell from my bike countless times while I learned how to clip and unclip my shoes. I had no idea how to manage my nutrition and did not have a lot of support or people to ask. Information online might have been available but my time was focused on working full time as an engineer and completing my Master’s degree in engineering. Despite all these difficulties, I was not discouraged from trying to learn the sports and become a triathlete. I continued to learn, was brave and persistent. I finished my first super sprint and sprint triathlon in 2009 at age 28 and my first Olympic, half Ironman, full Ironman and double century ride in 2010 at age 29.
Triathlon and my Busy Life: From 2009 until 2012, I was juggling my schedule between training and racing marathons, 50 mile run, triathlons, riding double centuries, completing my Master’s degree in Engineering, working full time as an engineer, taking care of my real estate investments outside of state, and running a non-profit organization for child abuse. Triathlon or racing was not my priority. I raced to keep me active and motivated. I had no high expectations during a race but to finish it.
Racing in Another Level: On 2014, I was committed to search for the real purpose of my life. I wanted to be happy. I thought that I didn’t have the right career… I thought that I should be focusing on my passion such as culinary or racing triathlon. After carefully planning the logistics and considering different scenarios, I bravely resigned as a senior engineer from an international medical device manufacturing company on May 2014. Believe me, it was not easy but it was something that I had to do to move on with my life. Otherwise, the question of “What if I could have given myself a chance to experience that, what could have my life been now?” would be bothering me for years. I changed my lifestyle then, which included moving to a new place, depending on homemade food, cutting off cable, degrading my phone plan, etc. It was a big change for me and my spouse, Vineta.
There were more ups and downs and lots of exciting things that had happened after that… but let’s focus on racing. On October 2014, I swam my longest distance of 4.8 miles during ultra triathlon Double Anvil race where I completed an Anvil Plus distance (4.8 mi swim, 150 mi bike, 26.2 mi run) in Virginia. On February 2015, I was the first ever Filipino (male/female) to take on the challenge of Ultraman (3-day endurance race consisting of 6.2 mi swim, 261.4 mi bike, 52.4 mi run). With 2 weeks of recovery after participating in Ultraman race, I raced another ultra triathlon race and became the first ever female Filipino to complete Double Anvil (Ironman distance x 2 or 4.8 mi swim, 224 mi bike, 52.4 mi run) on March 2015. On October 2015, I made the world record as the fastest female to finish an ultra triathlon Quintuple distance (Ironman distance x 5 or 12 mi swim, 560 mi bike, 131 mi). My persistence and drive to never give up in the face of difficulties and strong belief that anything is possible have taken me to many successful triathlon finishes.
2nd October 1981, Manila, Philippines
Marikina City, Metro Manila, Philippines
Vineta (July 2013)
Pug Julie, Pit bull Vanilla and Short American Hair cat Bumblebee
Cooking, hiking, researching online about sports, listening to audiobooks, watching movies, writing, dancing
Hanging out with family, friends and pets, eating good food, traveling
I was born on 2 October 1981 and grew up in the city of Manila, which is the capital of the Philippines. I went to one of the Catholic all-girls schools, Stella Maris College, where I finished elementary study, and government owned co-ed public school, University of the Philippines Integrated School (UPIS), where I finished my high school study.
I grew up in a family-oriented background, quiet, shy and was mainly focused on excelling in my studies. After school and during weekends, I was expected to help on household chores, such as washing dishes, throwing trash, cleaning the house, cooking food, washing family’s dirty clothes by hand, doing grocery and assisting in our family rice dealership business. When all house work and errands were done, I enjoyed playing traditional Filipino games such as langit-lupa, agawan base, tumbangpreso, piko, holen, teks, sipa, patintero, and taguan on the streets with the kids who were mainly boys in our neighborhood. At times, I also enjoyed climbing trees and exploring near neighborhoods by riding my bike.
During high school (13-16 years old), I continued to do my best in school, had a good group of friends, was not a member of any sports club and did not date anyone or consider myself popular. Life was somewhat simple as I was only expected to finish my studies and help at home. Before immigrating to US, I also spent 1 year studying Computer Science at the best school in the Philippines — University of the Philippines Diliman. I received Department of Science and Technology and Benigno Aquino scholarships to go there.
College years in US were not easy for me. I had to earn and save money to finance my education by working full time. I was also not sure about my career; I allowed many other distractions (e.g. acting, modeling, arts, navy, etc.) with the hopes to find the right career for me. I always came back to engineering for practical reason. I completed my B.S. in Electrical Engineering in University of California, Irvine (UCI) on 2007.
After graduating with bachelor’s degree, I then studied M.S. in Engineering with focus on Manufacturing and Design in University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) while I worked full time as Senior Engineer in various medical device manufacturing company. I attained my M.S. degree on 2012.
It may sound like I had a “normal” childhood and adolescence. The truth is my innocence was shattered at a very early period of my childhood. I was sexually abused as a child from about 5 years old until 19 years old. During these years, I kept the abuse a secret and acted like everything was okay. I was an ‘A’ student at school while I cried and had many sleepless nights. It was a nightmare except that there was no waking up to stop the bad dreams.
During elementary, I was known to be always getting “sick.” I went to the school clinic and was sent home many times because I was “sick.” At 10 years old, I had to miss school for several months because of my “sickness.” My parents took me to different doctors but they themselves could not figure out what was going on with me. I was unintentionally making myself “sick” or trying my best to escape from reality. As a kid, I did not know that I was doing that to myself. It was the only coping mechanism I knew from the sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse in and outside home continued. It became worse when family members and relatives started taking advantage of my vulnerability at 14 years old. Before I came here to America (at the age of 17), I had suicidal thoughts. It was too much for me to take the number of men and the frequency of the abuse that was happening at the time. I didn’t know how to fight and react to it except to just be silent and end my life. Looking back, I’m really grateful that I didn’t execute my suicidal thoughts.
I may have gotten through being suicidal but the scars caused by the childhood sexual abuse were still there. While I kept the secret with me, I coped with the nightmare by depending on my so-called “friend,” eating disorder. I was anorexic from 17 to 21 years old and bulimic from 22 to 27 years old.
At 17, I came to the United States on May 19, 1999 with my family. Life was not easy as an immigrant. My parents did not have money. We were dependent on my aunt’s family, who petitioned us and let us stay in their house in Chino Hills, California. During workweek of our first 6 months in the US, I acted like a parent to my younger brother and sister, helping them with their homework, attending parents’ meetings at school, and bringing them dinner from my job at McDonald’s while my parents worked at a different city. I also remember writing on my journal every penny I spent using my minimum wage salary.
My family struggled as we transitioned to become independent from my aunt’s family. There was an entire month of December when all 5 of us slept on one full-size bed in a made-up room beside a kitchen apartment. The made-up room and kitchen was separated by unfolded boxes and improvised curtain. It was unheated and always cold as it was beside the patio. In order for my family of 5 to fit on the bed, we slept together with our legs dangling off the edge of the bed. There were also several nights when I studied my courses and slept in my dad’s car at his evening job’s parking garage and on the floor of my aunt’s living room.
Despite the financial difficulties, I was still determined to finish my college. I knew that my parents did not have a lot of money while I also did not want to depend on them. For that reason, I decided to work full time in order to save money for college. At 18 and for almost 3 years, I worked full time as a typist clerk in South Health Center, Los Angeles Police Department, and District Attorney’s Office during daytime and completed my GED and transferable courses at Los Angeles City College during nighttime. I saved money from my salary and applied for scholarships to help me finance my college.
Another challenge that I faced during the first 2 years as an immigrant was communicating with people in English. Schools in the Philippines taught us English but I only spoke it when I had to or during my English classes. In the beginning, I had to go through a long process in my head before I can respond to the person talking to me. The process was as follows: 1) Listened to the person, 2) Translated the English statement to Filipino language, Tagalog. 3) Thought about the response in Tagalog, 4) Translated the Tagalog response to English, and finally 5) Responded to the person. Some people laughed or made fun of a word that I mispronounced; I was used to it so I took them lightly.
I thought that I had my worst nightmare during childhood and that no one would violate my body anymore when I became an adult. I was wrong. At 25 years old, I was sexually abused inside my own car by a parking attendant in Los Angeles, California on November 2005. As painful as it was, I didn’t get any justice despite the fact that the assault was recorded on video surveillance. I was only a couple of months away from taking my final exams in order to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. That did not happen as I couldn’t concentrate anymore. I had a mental and emotional block.
Since then, I considered myself a living dead and was hopeless. I lost trust and hated everyone including my parents. I was diagnosed with extreme depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I was seeing nutritionists, psychiatrists and therapists for years, taking anti-depressants and sleeping pills and was in the hospital due to my eating disorder. I struggled with eating disorder for 10 years. I also be-friended alcohol and was dependent on it for 5 years.
I was a mess and did not care about my life, health, finances or safety. I overcharged my credit card. I stayed out late partying, went out to numerous dates, had blackouts almost every weekend and even involved myself in 2 relationships (w/ girl & guy) both at the same time (with their permission). I slept in jail for Driving Under Influence (DUI) and had my license suspended for a few months. I was known as a “playgirl,” “flirty social butterfly” or “troublemaker.” I was a wild girl and out of control. I used all these things to make me feel “wanted” and numb myself from the painful emotions and flashbacks that I wanted to escape from.
I lived 2 lives then. I used the hats of the responsible engineer and nerdy master’s student to mask the ugly side of me. Then there was the girl who was lost, had a lot to work on herself, carrying a heavy burden on her shoulders and in denial of the pain of her past. I hit my rock bottom.
It took many years to learn how to be in touch with my emotions and truly forgive those who broke my heart and trust. For 10 years after coming to United States, I lived in anger, shame, mistrust and hatred. At that time, I intentionally became estranged from my family because I felt that I was the only one who could protect myself. I did not trust anyone. I blamed my parents for failing to protect me when I was young and trusting the men who lived in our home. I hated my sister for still continuing to live with her former husband after he tried to assault me when he was drunk. I did not talk to my brother and considered him dead for years. I carried a heavy burden for 10 years, with no peace of mind.
At 29, my former girlfriend broke up with me on the night of my birthday on October 2, 2010. I felt devastated and looked for escape in racing every weekend. I thought that I was going to be happy by racing. I was wrong. After all the races (3-double century rides, 1-full marathon and 1-half ironman) that I accomplished on October 2010 alone while I was working full time and completing a master’s degree, I still felt empty. That’s when I gave Landmark Education a shot.
Paying about $500 for a 3-day weekend seminar at Landmark was a lot for me. However, it was one of the best things that I could have spent $500 on. During that weekend, a lot of possibilities opened up to me, largest of which was accepting myself and my past, and forgiving my family. That weekend was the first time in 10 years when I told my family and truly meant the statement, “I love you and I forgive you. Let’s move on.” I can’t help but cry and share the wonderful experience on stage with the rest of the Landmark attendees. It was a breakthrough. I continued to attend additional seminars after that, including the Self Expression and Leadership seminar. With all these self-development seminars, countless sessions with psychiatrists, nutritionist and behavioral therapists, I was gradually able to find myself. Since then, I was not doing things just to please others. Instead, I was in a quest for my happiness and peace of mind.
The confusion and uncertainty regarding my sexual preference also burdened me for at least 10 years and felt that I had to do something about it. Since based on my past experiences, I had always left and made men cry for another girl, I chose to not date men anymore. The last man I dated was in the early months of 2011. This realization and life-changing decision relieved me. I felt free.
While I relentlessly searched for ways to improve and love myself, I was blessed to meet Vineta, who is now my wife, on April 2011. Vineta has played a significant role in teaching me how to be calm, true to myself and others, and how to love unconditionally. She has helped me tremendously in turning my life around and even making my dreams into reality. Thank you and I love you so much, Vineta.
Our family did not have “athletic genes” and I was not a part of any sports varsity during high school or college. My one-hour walk to and from work was my only exercise at the age of 17. Then, when I was able to afford membership at the gym, I would run 15 minutes on the treadmill before going to work. During my 3rd and 4th year of college, I bought a mountain bike so I could save time going from one class to another.
The 15-minute run on a treadmill increased to 30 minutes as years went by. Then, a friend of mine invited me to run my first 10k on October 2005. That was the first time I learned about the time chip, how to tie my shoelaces right and received my first medal. I was happy and proud about my first medal and so were my parents. My progress in running wouldn’t have been that fast if I wasn’t sexually assaulted at 24 years old. I used running to cope with my depression and PTSD. In a way, running has given me hope, strength, confidence and peace. It makes me feel that I’m alive.
From 2006 – 2008, I ran marathons to keep me motivated. On 2008, I increased the number of marathons that I finished in a year. Afraid that I might injure myself by running too much, I overcame my fear of water and started training for a triathlon. I finished my first triathlon race on August 2009. On July 2010 (less than a year after my first tri race), I finished my first Ironman distance race (2.4 mi swim, 112 mi bike, 26.2 mi run). On 2010, I started riding 200 miles and running 50 miles. I raced while I worked full time as an engineer, completed a master’s degree in engineering, was in a relationship and kept in touch with my family and friends.
With 5 Ironman finishes behind me, I started racing ultra-triathlon on October 2014. By the end of the year 2014, I wanted to take my racing to the next level. I came across Charles “Chuck” Kemeny’s 2014 Ultraman race report online. I was in awe with his performance and learned that he holds the fastest Ultraman race record. I told myself, “I want him as my coach.” During my conversation with Chuck, I told him that, “I do not want to just finish a race. I want to do very well. I want to be at the top. I want to win.” Chuck asked me a lot of questions and accepted me as one of his Life Sports Coaching athletes.
On February 2015, I participated in Ultraman Florida race (6.2 mi swim, 261.4 mi bike, 52.4 mi run) and was known to be the first Filipino (male/female) to take on the Ultraman challenge. With 2 weeks of recovery, I went back to Florida to race and finish Double Anvil (4.8 mi swim, 224 mi bike, 52.4 mi run). Then, on October 2015, not only did I complete my longest triathlon distance of 760 miles which consisted of 12 mi swim, 560 mi bike and 52.4 mi run at World Cup Quintuple triathlon race in Mexico, but I also placed first female overall and made world record to be the fastest female to complete the distance.
I learned a lot about racing in 2015. I learned not just the physical part of training or exercise but also about nutrition, rest, recovery, sleep, my dark side, unknown fears, how to prioritize and plan for races, prepare myself mentally, how to deal with the “roller coaster” emotions, how to accept that people will either like me or not, and mostly how to feel and show more gratitude for life, health and people who love and care for me.