Endorphins raging, blood coursing and his excitement running at a comparably high clip, Martin Lorenzo hopped in his car on a balmy Manila morning and headed home, his last pre-race workout complete.
The following day, he would be leaving for a race in a neighbouring city, where the top 30 finishers were assured spots in the Ironman World Championship, in Hawaii.
Lorenzo had every right to feel as invincible as Superman. He had never been in better shape, his confidence was soaring, and because he knew most of the top entrants in the upcoming event, he thought a trip to Kona was practically assured. His mind, like his car, happily floated along.
Then his life took a left turn.
As he approached a car that had cut off Lorenzo and another motorist while their vehicles were in a turning lane, Lorenzo was shot through the chest and arm by an unidentified assailant. The bullet shredded his right arm and narrowly missed vital organs.
Hardly the way the soft-spoken Lorenzo, now 41, envisioned the ensuing weeks playing out just fleeting seconds earlier. "I never thought I would be caught up in this type of drama," he said.
Eighteen months later, his life and triathlon aspirations back on track, Lorenzo will compete on Friday as a special invitee in the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon. Celebrating its fourth anniversary, organisers offered free plane fares for 10 athletes who submitted the best real-life stories about inspiration and perspiration. Lorenzo's is compelling.
"Stories like Martin's are an inspiration to many others and are a hallmark of triathlon, which is at its very essence is about tenacity and endurance," said Sultan Al Muhairi of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, which runs the event.
A high pain threshold is handy at times, too.
A businessman with two young children, Lorenzo was hours away from leaving for the biggest race of his life when the white sedan cut him off in traffic. A second motorist, agitated because his vehicle had nearly been hit, asked if Lorenzo would speak to the offending driver as the three cars stopped at the next traffic light.
Lorenzo agreed to help the man. As he approached the offending car, a window rolled down and Lorenzo noticed movement within the vehicle. Instinctively, he hesitated.
A gunshot rang out, and in a heartbeat, visions of Hawaii were replaced by thoughts of human mortality. A 9mm bullet ripped through his chest and out his right side, shattering the humerus bone as it bore through his right arm, which hung useless at his side. The car sped away and the second motorist disappeared.
Had he not flinched, Lorenzo believes he would have taken a bullet in the sternum. Stunned, he waited for assistance. He is waiting still.
"I remember calling for help, I remember faces looking at me," he said.
No one lifted a finger, so he climbed back into his car as blood leaked from four bullet holes - two in his trunk and two in his arm - "like water from a faucet". He careened the wrong direction down a one-way street, taking a shortcut to a hospital located seven minutes away.
"I figured that if I bumped somebody, they would have to help me," he said.
Just like in a triathlon, he was left to his own devices.
"I just kept thinking that I did not want my children to grow up without a father," he said.
Lorenzo spent 12 days in the hospital and it would take six months before his mangled right arm, in which he has regained 95 per cent of his range of motion, was sound enough for him to swim competitively.
"They had all these contraptions hooked up and I looked like a lab experiment," he said.
The police investigation was nearly as mortifying. A man who was grazed by the bullet after it passed through Lorenzo's body wrote down the licence number of the car and authorities eventually identified two suspects. When the investigation stalled, Lorenzo connected with Jesse Robredo, a prominent government official, as the Interior and Local Government Secretary in the Philippines, and he agreed to help.
Just as the probe was getting fresh investigative eyes, Robredo, 54, was killed in a plane crash last August.
With two young children at home and a job to do, Lorenzo stopped worrying about seeking justice. "I didn't have the endurance for a case like that, so I decided to use it elsewhere," he said.
Using triathlon training as his rehabilitation, 10 months and two reconstructive arm surgeries after the shooting, he completed his first full-length Ironman event, last June in France. After starting over, he still aspires to compete in Hawaii.
"That would be the icing on the cake of all these crazy stories leading up to it," he said.
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