Blogs are so 2011; many of you may never read this, or care, but I need to tell this story.
First off, I just want everyone to know that I plan on working my Ironman race into every conversation possible. Here is how I imagine many conversations going:
Friend/Family/Stranger: "Hey where is ______(insert anything)?"
Me: "Hmmm, probably around X number of miles...not that far, not like an Ironman distance or anything. I mean, I would know-I've done one."
Friend/Family/Stranger: "You hungry? (i don't imagine a stranger really asking me this)"
Me: "I could definitely carb-load...*fake laugh*-man, I remember having to do that before my Ironman race...crazy."
Me: "I'm an Ironman"
The first thing many people ask you is, "What made you decide to do this?" I don't really have a good answer other than I had been doing triathlons for awhile now and my friend asked me to. I laughed at first, but then he said it was in Cozumel; I will do almost anything if it is in the tropics. I tried to bargain with him and suggested we do a half. He mocked me and reassured me I could do it. I nervously laughed and started telling him about people dying on the race. He then sent me a picture that changed everything. I will not share what that picture was, but if you ask me in-person I will tell you.
I knew I needed more support, so I asked my brother Jake to join us. He had been studying for the bar and was not of sound mind...perfect. He resisted-then I paid it forward and also sent him the same motivational picture. We all signed up (and paid a ridiculous fee). I would love to add that having all the support of my family and friends made it easier, but I actually got no love or support from anyone. In fact, most of them told me I was crazy and probably going to die (won't mention the marital dispute that also ensued).
From that point it was about 6 months of training. I was so desperate for a training buddy that I downloaded an app called MeetUp and searched for people to train with. I found a couple people and invited myself to everything. I also joined a swim team; drove 45 minutes twice a week at 5 AM just so I could be around people who made the same stupid decision. I would constantly fish for reassurance as I jokingly said, "hopefully I don't die doing this" or "I'll finish right?". They would just look at you very professionally and say, "Depends on how much you trained."
I pretty much felt like every second I wasn't training was a second closer to death. I trained everyday. The only thing I was worried about were my knees. I went to chiropractors to get A.R.T., Physical Therapist, Massage Therapists (that I enjoyed) and Orthopedists. I got an MRI and a cortisone shot. I was diagnosed with ITBS, not to be confused with IBS (which I also have, and was equally as nervous about on race day with my white tri suit).
I was finally feeling good and confident about the race when the flu hit. Without getting graphic, I disposed of all food and fluids from my body in several ways and slept on my closet floor-which for some reason seemed like the only comfortable place to be. At that point I could only image my weak body sinking to the bottom of the Caribbean Ocean.
We finally made it to Cozumel and once I was with my brother and friend David, my confidence was restored-mainly because I knew I didn't have to die alone. We woke up at 4:00 AM on race day to carbload, then just tried to relax before heading down to the pier. It was actually really awesome being with all these different racers and being a part of something this big. As we stood on the pier they had a little dolphin show (which I kind of felt bad for the dolphins as I imaged them as Sea World rejects, but Cozumel waters are way better so I guess they have the last laugh), people were cheering like crazy and I got all excited.
They asked all 2700 of us to jump in the water and we floated around for about 10-15 minutes before the whistle blew. Once it blew it was kind of like a giant shipwreck; people were going crazy. I had never felt so violated nor violated so many others as I tried to swim in any direction. My philosophy was simple-don't look up, just follow someones feet in front of you. Apparently it was one of the more difficult swims and people were complaining about the crazy current, etc. I had no idea-I just followed the same two feet for and hour and a half.
I emerged from the water and ran to get my bike. Let me mention that everyone had extremely cool triathlon bikes that seemed to all but have motors. I had a very old, aluminum frame, road bike that was about 1000 pounds and screamed, "Amateur, you'll never make...or look cool trying". New bike is on the Christmas list.
Like all events in the triathlon, they are cool for about an hour. Once on the bike I felt the salty air, felt extremely awesome for having finished the swim and pedaled my little heart out. Meanwhile the entire island population was along the side of the road screaming, "Si, se puede! Si se puede!" which was much more motivating than when Obama said it. I even got a little emotional. Again, that was for about the first hour...maybe two. Then you got to the beautiful side of the island...which had a constant headwind and no one was there. I felt abandoned and lonely. It was 3 large laps of 37.3 miles (112 total in case you forgot. I'm an Ironman). Every time I'd make it back to town and heard the little kids chanting and the Gangnam Style song blaring-my spirits would lift. Just like any good drug, once it wore off you find your soul black and feel like there is no end to the loneliness and pain. After 7 hours I finally made it to the run (which is a marathon in case you're wondering, 26.3 miles. I'm an Ironman).
Here's the thing about the run-it's the worst feeling in the world. Running.is.the.worst. It is 3 laps, which has it's advantages in that you know where you're at, and can pace yourself. However when you have just started and see where mile 25 is when you're on mile 3, it makes you want to kick a puppy square in the face. I won't drag this out any longer. My knees hurt from the beginning but I suffered through about 18-19 miles with a run/jog and occasional walk. After that it actually felt like tiny knives stabbing at both sides of both knees and I had to hobble the last lap. Never had I felt this kind of pain. It was very frustrating because I felt great from the waist up; I had complete control of my bowels, and I wanted so badly to run. By the end, the sun had set; volunteers were shutting down shop at the back of the course; street sweepers were cleaning up and there was no more music. Re-enter loneliness and pain.
As I approached the finish line my cute wife and Camryn ran to greet me in the streets. Camryn of course did not want to touch me because I was dirty, even though she was laying in the streets of Mexico sleeping because her dad had taken so long to finish. I picked up my slow hobble to a painful quick hobble and crossed the finish line. I will never forget hearing, "You are an Ironman!". Unfortunately they were backlogged and I didn't get to hear my name attached, but I was fine being called Francisco. We were both Ironmen. I hobbled to the ice bath, got a massage and then was unable to move for two days.
The nice thing about finishing an Ironman is everyone looks at you like you are coolest person on earth; luckily there is no recorded footage of what you actually look like during the race. I however have some pictures of me looking like it could be my last day on earth. They actually sell you these pictures and you will pay almost any price for them just so you have actual proof. You can tell from the watermarks on the pictures that I'm still deciding which of these really bad photos to buy.
The biggest question I get asked is, "Do you think you'll do this again?"
Answer: Yeah, probably.
Here's the swim-the only thing that will do it justice is going yo ironmancozumel.com and watching the video of the mass start. The water was unreal however.
Uncool bike & lonely
I have no clue what was going on here-in fact I don't remember most of the run. Also my wife mocked my tri outfit and socks for so long, but was so grateful for them afterward because I'm very easy to spot.
"Francisco, you are an Ironman!"
Look how happy I look?! Lies (puppy.kicked)
Me and Jaker-he killed it. Not pictured is David who finished 4 HOURS before me and was in bed sleeping his awesomeness off.
(I'd like everyone to notice our shoes were the same except his were a party in back and mine were a party up front)