Friday, August 14, 2009
RACE REPORT: I AM AN IRONMAN! Hear About It In This Lonnnnnnnnnnnnnng Race Report! (you should grab a drink and some snacks...it's long)
Sat August 1, 2009:
My alarm went off at 3:30am and I was ready to go. We had to be in the hotel lobby to leave on the buses to the swim start at 4:30am. I had a hard time falling asleep the night before. I went to bed at 9:30pm but I know I didn’t fall asleep until at least 11:30pm. I was definitely anxious and my mind was spinning. I remember lying in bed and noticing how fast and hard my heart was pounding. Although I felt very confident about being able to cover each individual portion of the triathlon, I think what had me uncertain was doing them all together in one day. That’s a whole different story so that is why I think I was uneasy. I had swam over 2 miles numerous times in the pool, had biked nearly 4 century rides and ran many marathons over the years…I know I could do each one but had never put them all together. Yikes! I also learned something new about myself…that I am a control freak. I realized I kept worrying about the things I couldn’t control. I was confident in my ability, but worried about the unknown. The main thing on my mind was my bike. What if my chain broke on the ride? What if I hit a pothole and bent my wheel? What if I had more than 2 flat tires (I only carry two spare tires and 2 CO2 cartridges on my bike)? What if...what if…what if…what if????? It was driving me crazy. I realized I could control my results in the swim, I could control my destiny in the run, but on the bike there was an element of helplessness. On the bike I could physically feel fantastic with all the energy in the world but IF I had any mechanical problems, my opportunity to become an Ironman would be over. I did my best to try and put aside the unnecessary worry and get to sleep. Somehow, I managed to zone out and get the much needed rest.
The horn sounds and the swimmers are OFF! For this race, it is a floating start, meaning you start your swim already in the water and just floating there until it is time. I made sure to get towards the back of the pack because I know I am a slow swimmer. As the swimming began, I was happy to notice there was very little chaos around me. I was expecting a little more of bumping into people and possible kicks to the heads or elbow s to my sides. I remember the words of Coach Paul the night before to TRUST that we were one of the most prepared people out there. That if you looked at other people, to NOT be intimidated and feel like you were not ready…because we WERE ready. Well, about 5 minutes into the swim, Coach Paul’s words came true. I was just beginning to catch my stride when out of the corner of my left side I noticed a swimmer floating there on his back. He was totally facing the wrong direction and paddling with his hands while on his back. He was doing “The Allan Matus” backstroke! He was definitely in panic mode and it was only 5 minutes into the race. I don’t mean this to sound mean, but that gave me some confidence. Seeing somebody else struggle made me feel better about where I was because I am NOT a swimmer, yet I was moving forward without any anxiety. I knew at this moment that Coach Paul was right…I WAS ready. It didn’t matter what others around me were doing. I was trained, I was ready and I had to just focus on MY game plan. To even confirm further that I was doing OK, about 10 minutes after seeing that first swimmer, I noticed another swimmer on my right side doing this breath stroke/doggy paddle type thingy. He was not swimming freestyle like he should have. That fella was also struggling big time. Again, the struggles of another fellow triathlete provided me confidence. What is wrong with me???? I guess I am just heartless.
The 2.4 mile swim for this race consists of 2 loops. You swim down the river for 0.6 miles and then turn around and swim back for 0.6 miles to the start. Then, you just repeat the same loop a second time. I remember about half way to the first turn-around point (about 0.3 miles in) I was actually PASSING some swimmers. You don’t understand...this NEVER happens to me. 9 months ago I was spitting up chlorine water in a 4 ft pool struggling to swim one lap and now I was passing fools?????? Hell had frozenth over. Of course there were tons of speed demon swimmers in front of me too, but I just felt good knowing at this point that I wasn’t the slowest male in the entire river.
There are some points in the water where it is super shallow. At the first 0.6 mile turn-around I looked up and I saw 4 guys walking on water. I only have a quick second each time I turn to breathe and in one of those seconds it looked like Jesus was walking on water. The water was so shallow at that section of the course that these 4 really TALL guys were walking with water barely to their knees. I realized this looked like fun so I stood up myself and walked around the buoy. This was the first time I actually took a minute to enjoy myself and I yelled out to the other swimmers also walking…”Come on BITCHES…we’re doing IT! We’re DOING IT!!” I had fun for that quick second and then dove back into the water to push on.
My personal goal for the swim was to complete it in at least 90 minutes. I purposely did not want to look at my watch. I only looked at it once at the midway point…it read 46 minutes. I was just a little behind my goal but not too bad. I felt good because swimming is not my thing. I was waiting to get tired but it never happened. I actually feel like I got stronger with every stroke. As I was close to finishing and heading to shore I was SO excited. Somehow completing a 2.4 mile swim excites me more than completing the entire 140.6 miles because of the huge improvements I have made in such a short time. I got to the shore, looked at my watch and it read 1hr 29 min…WOOOO HOOOOOOOOOOO! I had actually negative split that sucker! WOW! I was riding on cloud nine as I entered transition. My worst event was over and I had surpassed my goal.
112 Mile Bike:
The course consists of two 56 mile loops. Our team rode this exact course about a month earlier for our training so I was familiar with what to expect. The main difference was it was 104 degrees that day and I was EXHAUSTED by mile 70. Today we were lucky and the weather was perfect…even overcast and cold for the first 2 hours of my bike. My biggest obstacle is I tend to go too hard early and then I fade. Today I wanted to work on that. I had a great first loop. I looked at my watch and it read 3 hrs 20 min…that was WAY ahead of my anticipated time. I thought I’d finish my bike in about 7hrs 30min but I was on pace for sub 7. I felt great but now I knew I had to tone it down a bit so as to not bonk.
The highlight of my bike ride came at about Mile 90. I was on Chalk Hill Road and knew the major hill of the race, Chalk Hill, was near. By this point in the ride it starts to get uncomfortable. Your ass gets numb. Your shoulders begin to ache. Slight knee pains begin to creep. And you get a bit bored too. Come on...it’s 6 hours on the bike by this point. I’m biking and noticing I’m starting to slow a bit and I hear honking. I turn to my left and there is my friend Javier and his wife Claudia in their truck driving alongside me. They were honking like crazy, shouting and had a video camera out of the window filming me. It was GREAT! I was so shocked to see them. This was NOT part of the game plan. Javier is one of my best friends from LA and he drove up all the way up from LA that very morning at 3am. The plan was that he was going to meet me at mile 56 and then go straight to the run to catch me there. Well, I got to mile 56 and no Javier. I figured he just didn’t make it on time or something and didn’t worry about it much. Well, while their truck rode alongside me for a few minutes, they explained to me what had happened. Javier told me that he did go to Mile 56 but jussssssssst missed me by 5 minutes. Disappointed that I had already come through he decided to drive ahead and try to catch me at mile 75, which I didn’t know he was going to do so I wasn’t looking for him, and apparently he missed me there too. I was JAMMIN people…apparently I can out-ride a truck…LOL! Anyways, Javier is a stubborn beast so he just decided to drive the entire course until he found me. And HE DID! How cool is that! He found me at mile 90 and caught me COMPLETELY by surprise. Sometimes you just need a little something to get you going in a long race like Ironman and this did it for me. I felt like it was Tour De France or something. Javier had gone to a lot of trouble to find me and it gave me a huge boost of energy. I didn’t want to disappoint. Coaches probably won’t like hearing this but I GUNNED it for the last 15 miles of the race when I probably should have slowed it down to prepare for the run. I couldn’t do it…I just had too much adrenaline running through me after I saw Javier and Claudia on the course. I finished the bike ride in my FASTEST ride of the entire season…6 hrs 50min. A new PR on race day…how about that!
Ooops…one last highlight I forgot to mention. I had to pee pretty bad during the second loop of the bike. I held it in for like 30 minutes but then I couldn’t hold it anymore. In this race you get disqualified if you go to the bathroom anywhere other than the port-o-potties at the aid stations. Well, I couldn’t hold it anymore and I had no clue how far ahead the next aid station was, so….I had to do it. I went #1 on my bike. HA…gross you say? No….liberating is what I say. Don’t knock it till you try it. This blog entry is far too long right now so I’ll spare you the details. If you want to hear more about it….just ask me the next time u see me. Or ask Allan…he was riding next to me and witness this glorious event.
26.2 Mile Run
By the time I started the run I had already surpassed both my goals for the swim and the bike. I began my run at about 8 hrs 30 min and I knew it was over…I WAS AN IRONMAN!! I was so ahead of plan that I could technically bonk NOW and walk all 26.2 miles and still make the 16 hr cut-off. You know, they say that you don’t truly feel excited about finishing a race when you cross the finish line, but instead you feel excited at the POINT IN THE RACE where your mind KNOWS you can make it to that finish line. That point where you know without a doubt that you will make it to the finish. For me that point and moment came as I put my bike on the rack and laced up my running shoes. All my worries were gone. I realized at that moment that today, I WAS GOING TO BE AN IRONMAN! From here on out I just wanted to stay steady and enjoy the rest of my day on the run.
I ended up running about 20 miles of the marathon with my buddy Allan. We both felt sluggish for the first 8.7 mile loop. By the second loop we both felt a little better but each of us started feeling some aches. My knees were hurting and my hamstrings were stiffening up. Allan’s feet were just hurting. We tried to keep each other motivated and had fun seeing all our teammates along the course. By about mile 20 Allan had a bit more juice left in him than me and that sucker took off. I couldn’t keep up with him. My pride said keep up with him, but the other part of me said to just not worry about it and enjoy the rest of the time I had left. I honestly felt like I had nothing left to prove anymore and I was SO SO SO happy with my swim and bike times that it allowed me a cushion on the run. I used those last 6 miles alone to remember all the reasons I was doing this. I thought about all the people who inspired me. I thought about our honored teammate Kyle. I thought about my friend Javier and his mom who is ill. I thought about the Fantazier family who is going through a tough time right now. I thought about all the emails and msgs received in the weeks leading up to my race. I thought about a lot of things. Far too many things to describe in this blog. It would take all day to describe what I was thinking. I felt blessed to have this experience and lucky to be where I was.
Highlights of the run included all the familiar faces awaiting me at the end of each loop (oh yeah…forgot to explain that…this run consists of three 8.7 mile loops). I saw the coaches and captains. I saw Allan’s family cheering for me. Steve’s wife Dee was cheering. I saw Efren, Foofie and Sara all cheering. There was Carlos C.’s posse rooting for me along the sidewalk. Friends Allison and Marcela were even cheering me on with special signs. That was pretty cool. Allison and Marcela had a different sign for me for each loop. Loop one said “Untz Untz”…that made me laugh.”Untz Untz” is kind of an inside joke that a bunch of our friends have back home so it def brought a smile to my face. Loop two there were three signs that said “Go Los Go” written on three female bodies drawn on each sign. It is hard to describe here but the signs were…let’s say…interesting. I’ll try to get pictures of them but they were great. I even stopped and paused for a quick picture at loop two because I wanted to just enjoy every moment. I cruised in and finished my run with a hard sprint for the last 100 yards. Final run time: 4 hrs 53 minutes.
Carlitos is an IRONMAN!!!!!! Total Race Time: 13 hrs 26 min
At the finish line there were all my teammates waiting for me. Hugs in every direction. I had for months thought that this moment of crossing the finish line would be more emotional. Instead I felt like it was a dream. I felt like it was just another long training day in the books. It was quite a surreal experience. I was definitely happy and proud. I spent the rest of the evening there waiting for all my teammates to finish. Our team is a family so we leave nobody behind. The day ended by about midnight and my first Ironman was in da books.
CLOSING THOUGHTS On This Entire Experience:
So I’m writing this race report almost two week after completing my Ironman. It is still sinking in. I am getting over my bout with“PIDS” this week. PIDS stands for Post-Ironman Depression Syndrome. Sound crazy??? Okay…maybe I’m exaggerating a bit but I did feel odd these past two weeks. Definitely felt a bit empty. I felt sad that the ride is over. It’s really kind of hard to explain unless you are one of my teammates. Think about it? For nine whole months I have had one single day circled on my calendar. That date is the thing around which much of my life has revolved around for a very long time. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy thinking, planning, scheduling, preparing, eating, sleeping, mixing powders and packing for training. And now the date has come and gone. Now what? I figure getting my thoughts out there on this blog would be a good start. Here goes nothing.
Race day was amazing. I’m going to say it right now and I hope nobody wants to punch me in the face, but I thought the Ironman was kind of easy. There…I said it. I didn’t think it was that bad at all. Trusssssssssst me. I know how crazy that statement sounds. I was expecting the worst pain in my life, the most fatigue I have ever felt and mental agony. None of that occurred. I had no idea how I was going to get this sucker done 9 months ago and now I’m calling it “easy”. There are only two explanations to why I could even consider using that adjective to describe my Ironman. #1…I’m just a freak of nature and a BADASS. Or #2… I was properly prepared, trained and my hard work all these months just paid off. After talking to many of my teammates these past two weeks, I learned that I am not alone. Most of them feel the same way and say it “wasn’t as hard as they thought”. So as much as it would be cool to believe I’m a BADASS, I’m not. I have confirmed our incredible preparation and training given to us by Coach Paul and Coach Rad did the trick. Who knew…preparation + hard work=results. Crazy concept.
What an incredible experience the last nine months have been. It’s been one of the best experiences of my life. The title of my blog is “Make the impossible, POSSIBLE!” That is exactly what I thought about an Ironman when I started this thing…impossible. I would see that famous footage on ABC Wide World of Sports of that lady doing Ironman Kona and collapsing to the ground, crawling to the finish line. I thought only certain humans on this Earth were capable of such achievements. I never thought I could be capable of something like that. For some strange reason though, I felt the need last year to give this thing a shot and explore my limits. Every now and then in life I know I like to venture out there to the unknown. I am so glad I did. This experience has truly changed my life and taught me so many things. In a way, it has just brought me back to basics. My teammate Louis I think summed it up best…”It’s funny how you need to do an Ironman to rediscover the simple things in life.”
If you think hard, ever since you were a little kid, your parents or your teachers in school always told you to set goals. They told you that you can do whatever you want as long as you set your mind to it. They told you to work hard, to practice and to never give up. Pretty simple stuff if you think about it. We all know these principles. It’s not rocket science. But why is it as you get older and become an adult you deviate from the basics? Why do we fear “impossible” goals? Why do we begin to doubt ourselves and our abilities? Why do we make excuses? The 9 months of training on the Ironteam have taught me that I am unstoppable. I can do ANYTHING if I just set my mind on a goal, commit to that goal with laser beam focus and do not let anything get in my way. I feel like I have been reborn. I feel empowered to go out and attack the world with new passion. I can no longer view life through the same eyes. I know this is only an endurance event we are talking about, but it really does symbolize much more. I have already noticed in the last few months the difference it has made in my life. I’ve been in conversations with people and some random topic has come up and the words began to exit my lips…”no way, that’s impossible. I can’t do…” and then I catch myself and stop. I can’t finish the sentence. “Can’t” is no longer in my vocabulary. I think to myself…”Well, the last time I thought something was impossible, I DID IT. Last time I thought “I can’t”…I DID. That theory of thinking “I can’t” just isn’t valid anymore. I can’t go backwards.
I’d like to repeat something here that another one of my teammates, Sharon, wrote so eloquently in her blog. I think she summed it up best. “Let me say that I am no more athletic, special or talented than you. I made a decision and I set my mind to it. I was focused and determined to meet this goal and complete it. We all have different goals in life. Mine just happened to be swimming, biking and running to complete an Ironman”. I am not suggesting here that all of you sign up for an Ironman and that it will solve all your problems. But I would encourage you all to go out there and tackle whatever “Ironman” in life you have been chasing, and maybe have been a little scared to chase. Maybe it’s that dream job you want, or that business you want to start or that book you’ve been meaning to write. Whatever it is…it doesn’t matter. DO IT! Don’t doubt yourself. You will be surprised what you can accomplish if you just set your goals and GO FOR IT!
So I think I have rambled on long enough. If you made it this far, I salute you. You’re a champ. THANK YOU all who have supported me throughout these past few months. Thank you for all the incredible messages of support. Thank you for your generous donations for a great cause. Thank you for helping me get across that finish line. We did it together. I like to believe that I did so well and had such a great race BECAUSE of all the incredible energy you all provided me.