Ironman Arizona 2011: 

A challenge that allow me to discover the true power of a smile.
Carpe diem

The Cruel Reality Of A Wetsuit-Legal Swim... And Bye-Bye Bike

In any given situation there are pros and cons. The ‘pro’ of a wetsuit legal swim is that you float much more which allows you to move through the water easier and takes away the fear of drowning! Do I even have to mention the ‘con’? It is cold and if you don’t like it, there’s nothing you can do about it.

The cold waters of Tempe Town Lake were the central character of my biggest fear during the whole competition (second only by the I-have-never-ever-run-a-marathon-before fear).

The bike had to be handed in today, so we bike to the lake just before the swim practice. I put on the wetsuit, neoprene cap and socks and dragged my feet to the water. My faithful brother was nowhere to be found. He jumped ahead. And Toni forgot his timing chip, so there were no members of TH to accompany me. I jumped with the coach and swam next to him for the first couple of minutes. The water WAS SO COLD! My face and hands wanted to fall-off. The water WAS SO TURBID. It was so turbid that I couldn’t see my hand while swimming. After a while I tried to get on Rafa’s feet but I couldn’t see them, so I lost him before I could even realize what I was doing. Finished the swim, climbed off the lather and thought: ‘Ohhh… please let me finish the swim! If I do, I would finish the race. All I need, is to get out of this cold water as soon as I can’.

We dropped the bike and run/bike gear bags at the transition area. That was it. There was nothing else for me to do. There was no more training for me to do. There were no more preparations. Tomorrow is Race Day and that’s it… there’s nothing else. Everything that could go wrong had: broken shoes, flat tire, bike crash, several injuries, and forgotten gear. Nothing else could go wrong. Right?

Wicked event of the day: Both Antonio and Toni got injured. Toni almost lost a nail while filling his tires and Antonio cut his feet while climbing off the lake. A little duck tape, antibiotics and lots of prayers followed.


Did Anyone Say Race Day?

Let’s Get This Party Started!

I was barely able to sleep last night. Well, I have been barely able to sleep at all these past days. I think I am still jetlagged. But my mind is fresh. Or was.

Everything is kind of fuzzy now. I don’t remember much of the 12 hours and almost 10 minutes of the race. The whole day was like a dream. I was there; I was going through the motions and nothing else. I was just flowing.

I do remember being scared; of the cold, of failing the cut-off times, of my stomach going havoc on me again, of crashing on the bike, on getting a flat, of not being able to run, of the freaking marathon! A marathon! Ahhh I’m starting to recall.

The marathon! That’s all I could think about! Not the 2.4 mile cold swim I was about to get into. Nor the 112 mile bike ride that was going to follow. No! On race day, I was hunted by the I-have-never-ever-run-a-marathon-before and the how-am-I-gonna-do-it-after-swimming-AND-biking fear! I was scared. But good scared. That amount of fear that just reminds you not to be stupid. Not to swim too fast or to bike too strong, because you-still-have-a-marathon-to-run fear!

I kept going through the motions. Hand-in run/bike special-needs bags, inflate tires, verify nutrition on the bike and check gears. Oh wait… I said gears. Why are you not working?! Ohhh no, the one thing that didn’t happen before. My gears stopped working. Not a biggie, right? Try telling this to me. I almost cried. Especially because I almost blew a finger off while inflating my tires! Could it be happening? Could all my fears materialized today? I could see myself going through that road, the nagging road, but thank goodness I stopped myself.

I did a little head shake and said: ‘THAT STORY DOESN’T NEED TO HAPPEN’, regained myself, walked my bike to the event mechanic and laugh. The guy was dressed as a clown! I guess it was the first reminder that I just had to HAVE FUN WITH IT.

Let’s see. Antonio (my brother), Toni (my cousin), Julio (Tri-Spot training partner) and I not very gracefully put-on our wetsuits, took a few pictures and started walking to the Swim start. The guys were being guys. They decided to ‘warm-up’ the wetsuit while they were still outside the water… very far from the water! You could see puddles around them and many other athletes! Ohhh that was a first! I had to admit that on the pier, just before jumping to the water, I had to join them. We gazed at the water until someone yelled that we needed to jump. I think none of us really wanted to! It was cold water we were forced to jump to, 5 minutes before the race started! We faced each other, joined our heads together, group-hugged and jumped. That’s it. I was on my own.

I managed to make it to the front of the swim line where I found Omar. He had the most beautiful smile. He hugged me, asked me not to look so scared and reassure me that everything was going to be ok. In less than I expected the gun when off and the race started.

We looked like sardines jumping out the water! The sound, the endless arms, legs, bodies, heads moving everywhere were astonishing. It was something I had never experienced, nor did I ever imagine. I was kicked, pulled, pushed and punch several times. I pretty sure I kicked, pulled, pushed and punch several times too. There was no space! No water to swim… pretty much for the entire course. I cruised. My heart rate never climbed (except after a few really hard hits! Auch!). My goal was to get out but not to crash while doing so. And way before I imagine, I was back on the pier.

Someone pulled me out of the water. Someone peeled-off my wetsuit and I ran. Someone handed me the gear bag, someone dressed me and someone else put sun block everywhere! And I ran. Someone handed me my bike and I ran. Someone warned me of the slippery floor and I got on my bike. And I rode.

I thank the Gods for allowing me to get out of the water, for the water not being that cold and for such a beautiful day. The air temperature was perfect. There sky was on a perfect blue shade and a few clouds made the day even more enjoyable. I thank all the Gods and I kept thanking them for the next 112 miles. I even thank the winds for the extra challenge on the last two laps!

I had a blast on the bike course. The aid stations had different fun themes. People where cheering everywhere, there were funny sings all over the course and all fellow athletes where pretty nice too. I passed Omar and later on Juan, Pablo and Mandy passed me. We exchange words, smiles and cheers. No-one else from the team changed positions. I saw most of them at one point or the other on the bike course and cheer to those that I recognized. And again sooner than expected, I was off my bike.

My hip started to act out on the bike. I manage to pinch my sciatic nerve and it was very very painful. I was so glad to hand my bike to one of the volunteers on the final transition. And I walked. I walked to get my run gear and someone looked at me with sad eyes. ‘Can you continue?’ ‘Yes.’ She dressed me, feed me and sun block me again. The asked again, ‘ Are you sure you can continue?’ ‘Yes.’ And I walked.

I walked the first mile in pain but content. My body was hurting, but my mind was fresh. I ate two Kashi bars in the process and drank all my vitamin water and I continued walking. I calculated that I could finish in less than 17 hrs even if I walked the whole thing. So I was ok. Just then Antonio caught up with me. He looked so fresh! And so happy! He had the greatest smile I have ever seen. I gather some strength and started running with him. We talked about the swim and the bike and kept on running until I saw my salvation: A Pain Aid Station. Ohhhhhhh… this stop changed everything for me.

I stopped, Antonio kept going. A volunteer massaged an ‘unknown’ substance in my back and hip and the pain slowly but noticeably subsided. I was in awe! I could run! So I ran and catch Antonio. I ran with him for a few minutes and he latter on asked me to go ahead at my own pace, so I did. I ran. Shortly after I saw Javier, he gave me words of wisdom. He smile and his positive presence took-off the remaining pain and gave me the courage to keep on going. I ran. The coach was a few meters further and finished what Javier had started. So I ran. A few meters further Frances (my sister-in-law) and the rest of the team support crew gave me more energy and courage, so I kept on running.

The run became a ritual. I ran, eat, drank, stopped to get massaged, potty stopped and ran further. One more time… and again until I saw the finishing shoot. Finally, I was an Ironman Finisher. And even more important was, that I never, not even during the most painful time, I never lost my smile.

I stayed positive, I stayed present. I WAS and I AM. And for that I’m grateful.

Wicked event of the day: Glad to report: NONE REALLY!