Wednesday, August 31, 2011

About Becoming An Ironman

I have spent the last 48 hours (give or take) replaying the events that led up to the finish line.  Not so much the events of the last eleven months, but the events of the previous 4 days.  It just went by a bit to fast.

About Registration:  We arrived on Thursday afternoon and proceeded to get registered and pick up all information regarding the events of the next three days.  This, as usual, with all Ironman sanctioned races was very smooth and extremely well organized.  The flow through the various stations was flawless so in no time I was tagged and ready to go.
No. 2765

About The Expo:  Let's just say I have made a very healthy contribution to the WTC bottom line!

About The Athlete Banquet:  Very inspirational and motivational. It was great to mingle with hundreds of your fellow Ironman participants.

About Saturday's Practice Swim, Bike and Run:  My number one reason for taking a practice swim today was to get the feel for the river; to know what I could expect in the morning.

I was pleasantly surprised when I quickly realized that the water was not any dirtier that that in which we swim here at home.  I had heard horror stories.  I started swimming up stream and made it to a couple of buoys and had to force myself to return.  The swim was feeling great.  Goal for today was just to swim 15-20 minutes.  The return seemed faster.  There was obviously a current.

After the swim, we biked for 20 minutes and ran for another 15.

About Bike And Gear Check In:  Made it to transition somewhere around 2:00 pm.  At this point the crowd had not gathered so I walked right in.  Again, I was totally blown away when a young lady came up to me and took my gear bags and proceed to walk me through transition.  Showing me step by step everything I needed to know.  Bags were in place.  Bike was racked!

Now all I had to do was relax and enjoy the rest of the day.

About Race Day

Needless to say I did not sleep long.  I woke up around midnight and the rest of the night was just filled with anticipation.  Alarm went off at 4am, but I was already up and about.
Quick breakfast and it was off to the races.  Time of day  4:45AM.

Arrived at transition a bit after 5AM.  Took my special needs bags to the trucks, filled the bike tires with proper air pressure and it was off to swim start.
About The Swim:  I had been very concerned about the time waiting in line to get in the water.  Due to the time trial format of the swim start at Louisville, it is a first come, first serve basis, so getting in line early was very important.  I projected I was in line by 6AM.  Had an hour to wait, but it was not as bad as I had anticipated.  I think the fact that my friends Skip and Bill were there along with me made the time go by faster.  Cannot forget my wife Monica and Skip's wife Charlene... they were there helping us calm our nerves.

Don't let the smiles fool you!
 Then the cannon went off.  The pros were on their way.  It was almost time to rock and roll.  In no time we could hear the National Anthem being sung and suddenly the second cannon went off... It would be just a matter of minutes now.

The line started moving quickly.  No time to think any longer.  The training of the past 11 months was about to pay off.
Concentration or Nerves... or both!
As we approached the ramp towards the boat docks, I saw my two daughters and their friend Lindsay.  What a sight!  This was huge.  The moment got bigger as we walked down the first ramp to the hooting and hollering of a massive number of friends, including coach Barry Baird, who had made the trip all the way from Nashville to support us.  Too many to mention... you know who you are, I owe you BIG!  High fives everywhere... What a send off!
And just like that... it was 7:17 and I was in the water.

How's that for form?
The first couple of hundred yards I spent getting rid of the nerves.  I was breathing heavy.  I knew I had to control this.  Which, thank goodness I did.  The rest of the way it was smooth sailing....err, swimming.  Before making the U-Turn to head downriver, I hit a sandbar with my feet.  Scared the living daylights out of me.  I saw several people standing and walking.  I quickly moved away so as to not be tempted to do the same.

Somewhere, about three quarters of the way down, my left calf cramped, and it cramped big.  It was sharp, intense pain.  I kept my cool.  Knew I had to.  The cramping went away while I continue to swim, but the calf was left in tremendous pain.  This pain I had to manage all day long.  Mind 1, Matter 0.

My estimated time on the swim had been two hours.  As I came out of the water I remember checking my watch and noticing that it was under that.  I was extremely happy.  Official swim time: 1:51:54.  Yeah!

 About T1:  It took over 12 minutes to get myself fully changed and ready for the bike.

About The Bike:  As I left transition, the adrenaline was flowing and it was flowing big.  This was amplified again, by the sight and sounds of my family and friends yelling and screaming my name.

"I'll see you in 112 miles"
 Somewhere around mile 5 my stomach started cramping real bad.  Not sure why, didn't matter.  Had to get it under control so I concentrated on the job at hand.  This lasted for about 17 miles and then it just went away.  Mind 2, Matter 0

The majority of my bike was just as I had hoped, just as I had planned, just as I had trained.  The temperature was extremely comfortable, for the most part.  The wind, however, was another story. On the second loop around LaGrange is picked up big time.  Again, fought through it and made it happen.  Mind 3, Matter 0.


Having The Time Of My Life!
I found it very difficult to eat solids during the bike.  Due to the cramping issues, I did not want to take any chances.  I relied mostly on my CarboPro mix and my wife's boiled red skin potato which I had in the Bike Special Needs bag.  This hit the spot.

As I entered the 10 mile stretch down River Rd., I began passing several triathletes that were, in my estimation having a hard time getting to the end.  I knew that I could play a small role in in their success by throwing positive vibes their way.  I kept reminding them that we were almost home.  Just a few short miles to go.  I remember telling this one girl that it was just 5 more miles and then we had a date with a marathon.  She busted out laughing.  As did I.  She yelled so I could hear:  "thank you!"  That kept my spirits up!

Oh yeah, the badly cramped left calf?  It was sore, really sore.  I kept stretching it while on the bike every chance I got.  My next concern was how it would feel on the run.  I would soon find out.

I arrived at the bike-in to the sights and sounds, again of a crowd fit for a celebrity.  What support, what a feeling, what a time.

I had hoped on 7 hours on the bike.  I was close.  Official bike time was 7:34:08.

About T2:  Once again it took me a bit over 12 minutes.  Full change of clothes again.

About The Run:

WOW... family support is priceless!

I'll see you at the finish line

You always wonder, even if for a small little bit, if you're going to have enough left to run 26.2 miles.  The first couple of miles of the run will pretty much set the pace for the next few hours.  I felt GOOD!  I was wearing my calf compression sleeve so this helped with the pain.  Never felt it again.  The ankles and heels was another story.

Almost from the onset, they began to hurt.  I have been battling this for a couple of months, but never allowing this pain to dictate my training or how I would race.  I would battle through this, no matter what.  Mind 4 - Matter 0.

The run course is flat.  Really flat.  This helped keep a steady pace.  I had trained the past few months running for 4 minutes, walking for 1 minute.  This worked out perfectly through the majority of the water stops.  On the ones that it didn't I adjusted.  This plan I believe helped keep my pace the way I wanted it.

For nutrition I relied on pretzels, some fruit, cola, chicken broth, water and two strategically spaced Stinger Waffles.  This proved to be sufficient.

I had hoped for a sub 12 minute mile average pace.  Somewhere around mile 15 I did some quick math and realized that if I pushed myself some, this goal could be reached.  Quickly I gave that idea up.  I knew that this could possibly ruin the rest of my run.  So I stuck with the plan.  Glad I did.

The tail end of the run was dark and somewhat lonely.  Again I found myself throwing positive messages to those I passed, but this time I think it was more for my benefit that for that of others.  I remember telling one girl that all we had left was a 5k and that "we do this in our sleep".  This was possibly the message that helped me through to the finish.

As I came closer to the finish line, I tried to create a lot of space between the triathletes in front of me and those behind me.  At the very last turn, I stopped and waited for the two in front to get way ahead, while keeping an eye on the ones behind me.  I wanted this moment to be "my moment".  I wanted to enter the runway alone, by myself, with no one to share the spotlight with.  This worked out great.

The last 25 yards or so I spend high five-ing everyone what would high five me back.  Everyone did.  From one side to the other.  I could hear my family and all my friends yelling, screaming and pushing me through the finish line.

And then I heard it.  Those words that made the whole journey worth it:  "Mauricio Sanchez, YOU  are an IRONMAN."  I am told that at this point I was jumping up and down, sideways and all around.

Mauricio Sanchez, YOU are an IRONMAN!
The goal for my run was somewhere around the 6 hours.  Actual time was 5:41:11.  Yeah, I was happy!

In my wildest dreams I had visions of a 15 hour finish time.  I would have been extremely happy with a 16 hour finish and ecstatic if I just beat the clock.  My total, official time was 15:32:16.  Needless to say... I will take it.

Would I do anything different if I had known how close I really was to that goal of 15 hours?  No.  I wouldn't have.  I ran my race  I ran my plan.  I did what I knew I had to do to achieve the ultimate goal, one that is not measured in the ticks of the clock, but the one that is measured in the ticks of the heart.  Yes, on Sunday, August 28, 2011... I became An Ironman!

"Earned... NOT Given"

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Friday, August 26, 2011

About Setting Big Goals

Today's message is about setting Big Goals... Do NOT be afraid of setting a huge goal for yourself, no matter how outrageous it may seem, no matter how far out you may be, no matter where you are in life.  It is never to late to go get what you want.  Just. Go. Do. It!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

About Choosing a Goal

The message today is simple... Choose a goal, any goal.  Go for it.  It will change Everything.  Really, it will.

I am just 3 days away from fulfilling one of my biggest goals ever... competing in an Ironman.  Well, a competition against myself and what the course has in store for  me.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

About What's Left To Do

Yes, we're on the home stretch!  In just about 90 hours (from the writing of this post) it will be time to get my game on in Louisville, KY.

The training is done, the tapering is in progress and the mind and soul are at peace for they know that with the able direction of coach Barry of Endurance Geeks, I have done the very best to get ready for this epic day.

The gear has been laid out on the couch for the past several days.  I go over and over the list, ensuring that nothing is missing.  There are five piles; swim, bike, run, nutrition and miscellaneous.  Occasionally I realize that an item needs to be added, like last night at 1AM.  So I proceed to add it and be done with it... for the moment.

I did not want to check on the weather predictions until Monday.  This is something I cannot control, so I didn't want to worry about it.  Much to my pleasant surprise, the weather has been very favorable for Ironmaning!

High 85, Precip 10%, Humidity 67% Wind from N at 8

Yesterday and today the forecast had slightly improved, so I'm hopeful.

I have had to find stuff to do to keep busy.  Some of you may know that I am recently retired and I'm in the process of getting a few projects off the ground, one of which is a Translation and Interpretation Service.  This has kept me busy, but not totally.  The focus for this is not where it needs to be, yet.

So, in comes my wife.  She suggested I write and design stuff.  She tells me that I should use my energy to put thoughts in paper and share with others what I'm going through, in the best possible manner I know; a positive one.

On Monday I started posting on my facebook pageDailyMile page and Twitter images of what I wanted to share.  Here's what I came up with:
Monday's Message

"I am very respectful of the course, of the challenge and the hugeness of the task in front of me.  But I "Ain't Skeered"

Tuesday's Message

"I am as determined to do this as I have been determined to do anything else in my life.  I expect that nothing will get in my way of accomplishing what I set out to do just about a year ago."

Wednesday's Message

"Everyone, including myself, has their own private reasons and motivation for doing something like this.  As stated in a previous post, YES, I will get a tattoo, but this is about so much more than that."

I suspect that I will add to this collection in the next couple of days.  I will have to depend on the power of "auto posting" to get that done because I also suspect that my mind will be racing a hundred miles per hour.

For anyone interested and wishing to track me, you need to go to the IronmanLIVE website on Sunday.  There you will have to navigate through links to find the "Athlete Tracking" option.  You can find me by either searching for my name, Mauricio Sanchez or by my bib number, which is 2765.  I expect to be in the water somewhere around 7:15 am (EST), and my expectation is to cross the finish line somewhere around 10:00 pm (EST), everything in between is somewhat irrelevant.  They will have several check points which will be tracked on the website and they will have a live camera at the finish line... How cool is that?

Friday, August 19, 2011

About The Home Stretch

It's just 9 days away.  It seems like just yesterday I made the decision to sign up for Ironman Louisville 2011.  And now it's just 9 days away!

At this point is all about the taper.  Doing what is right at this point is more important than at any other time during training.  Understanding that the hard work is behind me and allowing the training to take over from here.

I find, as I have done with any other race / any other distance I have ever done that at this point it's about getting the mind and psyche in order.  As mentioned in the previous post it's time to calm the heebie jeebies.

And I think a turning point came last Saturday.  I had a 4.5 hr training bike ride followed by a 1.5 hr run.  They were both tough, as I guessed they would be, but they were both well within my comfort zone.

After I finished the run, with chocolate milk in hand, I felt a sense of peace overtake me.  A feeling of calm, a sensation of satisfaction.  I got the chills and if I must confess I got chocked up and a bit teary eyed.  I knew that this was the last really long training session in my plan.  I knew that the rest of the trip would be up to my head.

This week it hasn't been easy by any stretch of the imagination.  Race day logistics questions have overtaken me.  What needs to go in my T1 gear bag? T2 gear bag? Bike Special Needs Bag?  Run Special Needs Bag?  So many things to think about.  Apparently, so little time.

One thing I have not done is check the extended weather forecast.  This I cannot do anything about.  I have trained in some unbelievable conditions and I'm praying (real hard) for the best.  But the weather, I cannot change.

One of the biggest improvements and source of added confidence has been the improvements I have made in my swim.  As most know, the swim and I don't see eye to eye.  I have worked hard, real hard on getting better, on making small improvements each and every time I'm in the water.  The last two open water swims have been beyond anything I could have ever hoped for.

I have also improved on the bike by leaps and bounds.  I can last longer and my speed has picked up almost a mile per hour.  Again, for me... that's huge.  I have been practicing on using all my gears, specially on the hills.  Something I had not really done before.  By doing this, I keep my heart rate down and get less exhausted.

Understanding that the run will the the toughest of the three, due to obvious (to me) reasons, I have decided that I will run a 5-1 ratio.  Run 5 minutes, walk 1 minute.  I have trained with this plan for the past two months on shorter runs and longer ones, as well as bricks, and I seem to be able to keep a pace below the 12 minute mile.  How sweet it would be if I could do the entire marathon like this!

I expect the upcoming week to be intense.  Not training for all I have scheduled is maintenance sessions.  But mentally.  My mind will be racing every which way.  I will be playing each step of the way over and over again.  I will get my gear ready and check it over once, twice, three and more times.  I will review my race day plan.  I will fret over details, most of which in the whole scheme of things, will turn out to be meaningless.  My wife and daughters will have to remind me over and over again to relax and enjoy.  I will nod in agreement.

With my friend Skip, his wife Charlene and my wife Monica, we plan on arriving at Louisville on Thursday morning.  Skip is racing as well, his wife and mine are the biggest supporters we could ask for.  We have other friends that will be racing as well; Bill and Charlie.  They will arrive later.  My two daughters, Juliana and Marcela, my in-laws and a multitude of other friends and fans, including Coach Barry,  are making the trip to Louisville to support us.  We plan on absorbing the whole experience.  To devour each and every minute of each and every day.  After all, it's only once that you become an "Ironman".

Friday, August 5, 2011

About The Louisville Heebie Jeebies

Usually defined as nervousness or fright; jitters; creeps... and I'm beginning to feel them.

This usually doesn't happen to me until race week.  Usually a few days before is when I begin to question everything.  Additionally, every little incidental twitch, ache, pain, etc. seems to be magnified.  "What is that?  Where did that come from?  Oh, no... not now!"

So, why have I already been visited by "The Louisville Heebie Jeebies"? And why can't I shake them?  There's still 23 days until Ironman Louisville!  It's not time yet, not the time to be at this point.  It's to early, to soon, to fast.

I have upon me a tapering period.  During this time, I will meticulously reduce the length of my training, in time and in distance, but not the intensity (see Coach Barry, I am listening).  I will continue to swim laps, ride miles and run for hours, but I will allow my body, physically and mentally to recuperate, recover and rest.  Oh, that much needed rest is very welcome at this point.  All I seem to want to do is eat and sleep.

I will use this period to strengthen my resolve.  My mental wellness and preparation for this event needs to be solid.  I will make sure that I have a plan of execution for race day, but will be prepared to adapt and adjust as needed, for all plans are useless unless you can adapt them to present conditions.

I will come to Louisville trusting that I have done my best and all that I could in preparation for the big day.  I will enter the water in peace.  I will know that the hard part is behind me and that for the next 17 hours, hopefully less, it is time to have fun.  It will hurt, I know that.  It will be long, I know that.  It will be hot and humid, I know that.  I will have doubts, I know that too.  But I will not be alone.  There will be 2000 others doing what I'm doing.  Some will be faster, some will be stronger but I'll be damned if anyone will be working harder than me.

I know that next to finishing the event, the sweetest part of the whole process is the taper.  So, I will keep that in mind and enjoy the rest of the ride.
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