Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Monkey Business

From the moment you begin to consider a registration for the selection lottery for the Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon, a process so tightly lipped that even the organizers can't tell you how it actually works, you begin to hear that this is probably the worst decision you will ever make in your running career.

And yet many return, year after year. Word on the street is that these folks have been hypnotized and their souls taken over by overprotective Flying Monkeys. Although this claim cannot be corroborated because as the story goes, no one has actually seen a real live Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey. It is said that the runners keep returning to look for vengeance. Or so they think.

But do these Monkeys really exist or is this simply a myth? Ask any one of the 300+ runners that venture into these sacred grounds each year and they'll tell you that they believe, otherwise why would they return once and again?

My first encounter with "the Monkey", as we lovingly refer to it around this neck of the woods, was last year. It happened two short weeks after running the New York City Marathon. I was in great running shape, but my legs were tired. From what I remember, It was a very cold and miserable November morning. The temperature at the start was a mere 17f and it appeared to be dropping. My time, not that it mattered, was just shy of forever.

During the weeks leading up to race day, we would receive very motivating emails from race director Trent (I will not use his real name to protect his identity), a person which by the way, we have learned to hate. These emails would leave the door open for anyone that wanted to pull out to do so. Not sure anyone did. Cannot imagine anyone, for any reason other than injury, taking the easy way out. These emails would also remind us in no uncertain terms that "Running Is Stupid". Well, not in any uncertain terms, he would actually come out and tell us this.

Oh yeah, we were indoctrinated with the idea that you in fact, cannot train for the Monkey. We would soon find out the truth in this statement.


The course boasts an elevation change of some 7,200 ft. Give or take a hundred or two. From experience, I would tell you that you could probably give instead of taking a hundred or two. Also from experience, I can positively tell you that there are no "flats" on this course, to speak of. Okay, maybe just one. Started at mile 16.001 and it went through to mile 16.010. At one point in the race I remember, but its somewhat blurry, hearing voices from what it appeared to be coming from up above. I looked there and some 3 to 4 stories high there were runners. I also remember thinking that somehow I had to get there. From here.

All week leading to the race this year, the weather forecast was not favorable. Not favorable I say if you think that rain and thunderstorms would put a damper on the run. But as luck would have it, it rained sporadically and when it did, it was not a big deal. We did get wet, but this just added to the story line of the day.

Photo Credit: Keith Steiner
I have to confess that if you look around at the race participants, you compare their experience and abilities to mine, you would scratch your head and wonder what in the world I'm doing there. After two completed Monkeys I still ask myself that question.

Perhaps is the fact that this race is run for the sake of running. No Age Groups, no records that mean anything, no qualifying for anything, nothing. You run because you love to run. You run because it's really and truly a personal challenge. You run because you get a cool tech tee shirt with a "monkey" on the sleeve for each "monkey" you have finished, you get a pretty cool medal and a finishers beverage cup. Oh yeah, you also get bragging rights; you entered, you ran, you survived and you finished the "Monkey". You lived to write about it.

Photo Credit: Elly Foster
My day went just as expected. It hurt. It hurt bad. Not most of the time... all of the time. There were no walls to hit, because the entire race was a huge wall. But as luck would have it, every time I saw a photographer, I managed to squeeze a smile. Miles 0-16 went without much consequence. Around mile 17 I kept thinking of my friends at the aid / water stop on mile 23. This kept me going. Knowing that they would be there waiting for me, (because everyone else from our group had already gone by) was a huge motivator. My wife Monica and daughter Juliana would be there as well. I couldn't let them see me hurting. So, I kept going.

Monica and my friend Skip were waiting for me about .5 mile before the station. Their presence was a God sent. It was awesome to see them there. Plus, it meant I was that close to mm 23, just 3.2 short miles to go. And just as expected the music, the yelling, screaming, hooting and hollering from the Hendersonville Running Club water stop was phenomenal. Juliana's high-five sent me over the top. I drank a flat cola. That's all I wanted.

Photo Credit: Keith Steiner
And I was on my way. To the finish line. 3.2 miles to go. That's all. 3.2 miles to go. Dang, they were long. They were tough and they hurt. But when it was all said and done, I entered the finishing area and all my friends were waiting. I wanted to walk because honestly I couldn't run any longer, but I didn't. I couldn't let them see me hurting.

I returned to normal walking about three days and three toe nails later. The pain and anguish of those hills are now a faded memory. So what about next year? Well, provided that I make it through the top secret selection committee, I will be back. For a third go at it. Hills? What Hills? Pain? What Pain? Train? You can't. Why? Because Running IS Stupid.




Thursday, November 13, 2014

"Tri Talk" ... A New Kind Of Forum Experience


There's an endless number of forums available where triathletes can go to discuss topics of interest to the sport. Many of this forums take a mind of their own and the personality of those that use them most, regardless of the good intentions of the forum creator and its moderators.

A group was created on facebook with the intention of allowing triathletes of any and all levels, experience and ability to feel free to post questions, comments, concerns. They can look for and ask for advice on any topic related to the sport. It is not limited nor specific to a specific brand or race distance; from Sprint to Iron Distance and everything in between.

We have been very vigilant to ensure that spammers do not find their way to our group and that the forum is not used for direct soliciting and promoting of specific products and/or services. This guarantees our members a more enjoyable experience.

The group has grown (as of this writing) to 1270 members and the group was created just two months ago.  So what's the reason for its success?  One member said it best:

   "One thing I will say about this board in general espcially after spending time in beginnertriathlete and slowtwitch is the lever of decency between people despite many different opinions is unlike anything I've ever seen on an Internet board. It's great to be able to speak your mind..."

A wide array of topics spark interesting conversations on a daily basis, from saddle selection to personality types. So, we invite you to come join the talk, the Tri Talk. To do so, click here now!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

4 O'Clock Club

I have not always been a morning person. Getting up early, 7 am or earlier, was quiet the chore for me. I held jobs for years with fluctuating schedules. Sometimes I would go in at 10:00 or later. This allowed me to get really comfortable with my pillow.

But now people that know me best today, know that I love to get up early, 4:00 AM early, and go workout.

Working out before work has numerous advantages, as I have found out first hand.

* It is often the most peaceful time of the day and a great way to get some alone time.

* It preps you for the day, waking up your brain, clears the mind & helps organize your thoughts.

* Get your exercise out of they way. You don't have to worry about it the rest of the day. It gets done. Things happen throughout the day which may derail your well intended plans to exercise later.

* It boosts your metabolism & gets your digestion moving the for the rest of the day,

* Much easier to go out and exercise on an empty stomach, which in itself has tremendous benefits, the biggest of which is you have the potential to burn more fat. Your muscles don't have much sugar to draw from so you are more likely to tap into your stored energy, which means releasing and burning surplus excess fat. **This should only be attempted after you have consulted with experts and discussing your personal goals**

* It interferes less with family time!

* A lot easier to build and maintain exercise consistency.

* If you accomplish absolutely nothing else during the day, you still feel accomplished

* You feel less stressed and are ready to tackle whatever the day throws at you.

* Bragging rights.

It is true that it requires a high level of discipline to do this and create a habit. Your mind will fight it every step of the way the first few times you attempt to get out of bed at 4 o'clock in the morning, but as days pass and you continue to fight the impulse to turn over and sleep longer, this gets easier. With consistency, you will regulate your body's circadian (biological clock) rhythms (yeah, I had to look this up). Your body will learn to do just about the same thing every day and it begins preparing itself for waking and exercising a few hours before you actually open your eyes.

So go ahead, give it a go! Come join me for a gym workout, or a run!
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I invite you to come on over and "like" my page "Mauricio's Journey Beyond Ironman". Click here to go there.

Also invited you are to join the Tri Talk. Click here to do so.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Triathletes Are...

"How do you know someone is a triathlete?"
"Just wait a minute or two, they'll tell you!"

"You know you're a triathlete when you become an expert at bringing up the subject at any conversation."

It is true. We love to talk about our sport. I guess it's no different than any other endeavor. When you're proud about your passion you want to talk about it. Often. But do we do it to brag, impress, inform or delight?

And why is the world all of the sudden fascinated with this endurance sport? Why the larger than life numbers of people taking up a sport that hurts? Hurts bad. Triathlon, if you're not careful, will take over your life. Your weekends will be spend mostly in Lycra and your days will tend to start and finish much earlier than you ever imagined, you will rise before any one to get that early run or ride and you will be collapsing into bed from exhaustion, and any day that this does not happen, you think was not a good day.

Could also be the new "fitness is cool culture" and a more positive attitude towards exercise. You can join a Tri Club where the "anything is possible" climate is promoted and individual accomplishments are celebrated. You train and race at your pace against folks your own age and the only pressure placed upon you is that which you place upon yourself.  This is not so in other organized sports where they are more set in their ways.

There's a physical, emotional and psychological transformation that all triathletes go through. Everyone takes up the swim, bike, run, eat, sleep, repeat challenge for a different reason; everyone's goals are unique and this is a sport that allows you to chase your dreams at your own pace, because really and truly, age is of no consequence.

But what kind of person is a triathlete? And because we love to talk about this sort of thing, I asked this question on the TriTalk facebook page: "Using three (3) words, describe a triathlete" and I was not disappointed in responses received.

The top words used by triathletes to describe themselves are: Determined, Dedicated, Obsessed, Crazy, Strong, Hungry, Motivated, Broke, Driven, Tired, Focused and Insane.

Determined: Having made a decision and being resolved not to change it.
Dedicated: Devoted to a task or purpose; having single-minded loyalty and integrity.
Obsessed: Preoccupy or fill the mind continually, intrusively, and to a troubling extent.
Crazy: Extremely enthusiastic.
Strong: Able to withstand great force or pressure.
Hungry: Having the desire, craving or need for something.
Motivated: Highly stimulated with a reason for doing something.
Broke: What happens when you register for your races and purchase all the gear necessary.
Driven: Very determined to succeed.
Tired: How we always feel, but we ignore and repeat what made us tired in the first place.
Focused: A clear and defined reason or objective.
Insane: A state of mind that prevents normal perception.

Being that most triathletes enjoy a Type A personality, one adjective that I thought for sure would come up, and come up often, but it did not, not even once, was: "Competitive". This was a surprise to me.

Competitive: Having a strong desire to win or be the best at something.

I have met a multitude of triathletes over the past few years. I don't know that the above list does not fit in one way or another to each one of them. Maybe not all of them, but most would. Additionally, I'd like to add a few descriptions of my own.

Most every triathlete I have met has a positive mental attitude and outlook on life and their surroundings.
Most every triathlete I have met has a unique sense of humor.
Most every triathlete hates the idea of ordinary more than he or she hates the idea of discomfort and sacrifice.
Most every triathlete exercises some degree of vanity.
Most every triathlete never settles for "enough".
Most every triathlete not only thinks "outside the box" but lives "outside the box"

And regarding that "sense of humor" characteristic I mentioned above, two responses that merit mention are:

"Self-Loathing Sadist" and "Not 'Yet' Divorced"

Now an interesting project would be to find out what our family, friends and coworkers think of us; what words would they use to describe us. Do you think that their perception of us would be the same as the perception we have of ourselves?

Thank you everyone who participated in my extremely informal survey.

______________________________________________________

I invite you to come over and "like" my facebook page "Mauricio's Journey Beyond Ironman". Click here to go there.

Also invited you are to join the Tri Talk. Click here to do so.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Chicago Marathon: "Every Mile IS Magnificent"

If you are not a speedster, which I'm not, you enter each and every race with very similar goals in mind; to finish in a respectable manner. "Respectable" as defined by the beholder. To enjoy each and every mile. To race harder and stronger than you did the day before. To learn something in the process.

The Chicago Marathon for me was no exception. I have no illusions of a Boston slot, I have no illusions of ground breaking phenomenal personal records. I do however, train for each and every race with the utmost respect for said race and go in with the expectation that I have to give everything I have that day; to take nothing with me after the race because I left everything on the course. Again, the Chicago Marathon for me was no exception. I say what I say regarding a BQ because I'm a realist. I know that cutting an hour off my time at this point in my life is not within the realm of possibilities. Perhaps one day. Perhaps.

Registration for the Chicago Marathon 2014 opened 7 months after I had registered for Ironman Chattanooga 2014. I cannot remember when I put my name in the hat for the lottery, maybe I was secretly hoping that my name wouldn't come up, maybe I was secretly hoping that it would. Couldn't tell you the thought process here, it's all a blur. The fact of the matter is that after it was all said and done, I had registered for an Ironman and a Marathon just two weeks from each other. Great!

For me the Chicago Marathon was an item to be checked off my "bucket list". But having said that, this is also a race that if the opportunity presents itself, I will run again.

The family and I arrived at McCormick Place for the Abbott Health & Fitness Expo a few minutes past 10:00 am on Friday morning. Even though the doors had opened just a short one hour earlier, there was already a crowd. 

I proceeded to my station to pick up my bib, No. J 48693. The "J" stands for the corral I was assigned to, the one next to the last one. I felt more comfortable here than I did in at the New York City Marathon last year where I ended up in the very first corral. I thought this was more my speed. But I will get to how I think this affected my time a little bit later on.

The process moved swiftly and without consequence. I picked up all my "stuff" and as personal protocol dictates, I proceeded to the Nike Official Marathon Merchandise area. In a matter of personal opinion, I thought and still think that the race shirt was designed at the last minute by someone who received a call from the printer saying that they needed the print-ready artwork in 10 minutes.

Again, another personal opinion, I thought that the Nike Official Marathon Merchandise left a lot to be desired. There was nothing, absolutely nothing that jumped out to me and said "buy me". But I did. After a long search, settled for two items. Not that this is a bad thing in any way, for I had left a small fortune at the Ironman and another big expenditure would have been out of the question.

Two hours later we found ourselves at our hotel. The Hilton Chicago. This is the race host hotel; the Kenyans were staying here. All of them, they were all here. Goodness gracious, they look fast, even when they're standing still. Someone told me I would run fast by osmosis, I was hoping that to be the case. It wasn't.

The rest of the day Friday we spent doing a little walking around Michigan Ave and Lakeshore Drive. Both my wife Monica and Marcela, our youngest daughter love big cities. Me, not so much. But somehow, this time I didn't mind it. It was relaxing and fun. Walked to Navy Pier then to dinner at Volare Italian Restaurant for some serious carb loading, and then back to the hotel. I was tucked in by 9:30 pm. 

On Saturday the girls left early. They wanted to take in the sights. I stayed behind, didn't want to put all those extra miles on my legs. I opted for a short walk around Buckingham Fountain and Milennium Park. The day was perfect, the sun was out and the temperatures just right. I brought my camera along for some distraction. Made it back to the hotel early afternoon to relax and watch some college football. The girls came back mid afternoon and we headed to Sweetwater Tavern and Grille for dinner, and more football.

RACE DAY

One of the biggest perks, if not the biggest perk, of staying at the Hilton was the fact that we could see my corral from our hotel window. From the hotel front door to the corral gate took no more than 10-15 minutes, and it took that long because of the crowd. This was perfect for I didn't have to deal with the cooler temperatures for any length of time. Another not so obvious perk was the fact that I didn't have to check my gear bag in; one less crowd to fight.

The start of the race was long and slow. I guess with such a crowd, it would have to be. It was well staged and extremely well organized, however. When it came time for our wave to start, it still took about 25-30 minutes to get my corral off and running. But nonetheless, we were off and running. Tee time was approximately 8:30 am.

Today's race plan included the use of no data. Yes, the Garmin screens were turned off. All but the one that would manage my intervals. 4:1. I planned to run like this all day. Four minute run, one minute walk. And this I did. There was no keeping up with pace or time. The distance accumulated came courtesy of the mile markers along the course. My friend Skip suggested I do this when I told him I wanted to just go out and have "fun". After all, I had just raced and Ironman. My legs didn't have a stick of speed fiber left in them.

Or did they?  I will never know.

It is said that you run according to your surroundings. Or better stated, you run according to how those around you are running. This is why it is recommended that in order to get faster you train, and run, with faster folks.

At the NYC Marathon last year, when I ended up with the "fast" crowd, I had the fastest marathon time I have ever had, a sub 5 hour marathon. Here, today not so much. I was running with the slower folks and my finish time reflected this. 5:39:10. Had I placed myself further up, would this have made a difference? Not sure, doesn't matter.

The course was scenic and crowded. I was hoping that the crowd would thin out after the 13-14 mile mark. It did not. The course was also flat. Very flat. there were three very small bridges that I remember elevated minimally. Race support at Aid Stations was fantastic. There were 20 of them throughout the course, very well spaced. Each station was approximately two blocks long. First block always had Gatorade Endurance Lemon Flavored and the second block always had water. Bananas were offered at the stations somewhere between miles 20 and 24.

My personal nutrition plan consisted of Infinit and Huma gels. I carried a hand held water bottle mixed with the Infinit and I would sip some every 1 minute walk. Had to refill the bottle once. This worked out great. I also took a Huma gel at mile 9 and a second gel at mile 18. This too worked well. From the aid stations I alternated a small drink of Gatorade at one station and a drink of water at the next. I took one third of a banana around mile 20.

The crowds of cheering supporters were everywhere as well. People lined the streets for most of the race. This was a great motivator. Even a bigger motivator for me was finding my wife and daughter at miles 13 and 18. Or rather, having them find me. Not sure how they spotted me, but they did. They called out my name, I heard them and there they were; big ol' smiles that lit up the course!

The one big let down was the finish line. It was anticlimactic. Where were the crowds? There was no crowd. The bleachers were set up on both sides, but there were 5 or 6 people there. Was I that far towards the end that everyone had already left? Don't think so. I remember at the last aid station, the station captain was telling his volunteers, over the megaphone, that there were still some 10,000 runners to come, to make sure to keep their spirits up.

Perhaps it has to do with security. Security throughout the course was heavy. Obvious and heavy. Swat teams. FBI teams, Local and State Police, etc. they were out and they were out in force. This was good to see.

From the moment I crossed the finish line until the moment when I found my family, about 45 minutes had passed. I was tired, I was hungry. I just wanted to eat. I had taken a Gatorade Protein Shake at the finish line, which btw, was pretty tasty, but obviously that was not enough. I had taken a moment to stretch my legs, but there's no amount of stretching you can do to prevent your Plantar Fascia from hurting when it gets cold. It was beginning to ache. No, it was beginning to hurt and hurt bad.

LESSON LEARNED

One of my goals with each race I run, is to come out with new lessons learned. Again, Chicago Marathon was no exception:

1). The choice of hotel matters. It matters a lot. We have stayed at hotels near and far from race sites, but never one this close. It brought peace of mind to someone (me) who worries about race day logistics. However, this choice of hotel is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us. I cannot justify the expense just to be "close" the the race start/finish. Next time, I will get over race day logistics.

2). Registering for and racing an Ironman and a Marathon two weeks from each other is a BIG DEAL. A huge deal. Label me crazy if you must, but it CAN be done. Are you up to it too?

3). Running for fun, is a lot of fun. But the "fun" must be as defined by you.

4). Judge the Effort Not The Time. Not all your races, because of circumstances, are created equal. We have accustomed ourselves to judge performance by time. Someone in the elevator at the hotel asked me if I was happy with my "time". I replied that I didn't know what my time was for I had run without my Garmin. He had a very bewildered look upon him. I explained that I had just raced an Ironman two weeks before then his look changed from one of bewilderment to one of awe. I didn't tell him that to impress him, I just told him the truth. Yesterday one of my clients asked me about my time. I replied that my effort was 100%. I went on to explain. This made perfect sense.

5). Positive Attitude Cures Everything. I already knew this, but its nice to keep finding reinforcement. The pain, the agony, the tired and heavy legs, all cured or at least sustained with a positive attitude. The "wall"? What wall?


________________________________________________________
I invite you to come over and "like" my facebook page "Mauricio's Journey Beyond Ironman". Click here to go there!

Also invited you are, to join the Tri Talk. Click here to do so.

Friday, October 3, 2014

IRONMAN Chattanooga: A Race Recap

For someone who never has a difficult time finding the words to express his thoughts, someone is having a difficult time, this time, to do just that.

I'm not sure if the enormity of the journey culminating at the finish line of the Inaugural Ironman Chattanooga, on September 28th is something that I still have not been able to wrap my arms around. The enormity of the journey I say, because even though I've traveled down this road before, this time, my second time, was more special than I could have ever imagined; the reasons for this have been heavily documented as most of you already know.

Ironman Chattanooga was by any and all accounts a very successful race. Going in, my goal was a sub 15:00 hours finish. Official time was 15:09:23. A PR by 22:42 minutes

Before I move with weekend and race specifics, I must say three things: 1). I survived the extra 4 miles on the bike. The course was adjusted a few weeks before the race for safety purposes and even though this created a mountain of controversy, we all made it and lived to talk about it. 2). I entered the race with "hot toe" issues, serious issues. I chose to race anyway so this will in no way, form or fashion be used as an excuse for my times or performance. I will make mention of this later only to give you an idea of what was going on. 3). I also survived Little Debbie as the title sponsor.

So, without further to do...

IRONMAN VILLAGE

As is always the case, specially in the bigger WTC events, the Village did not disappoint. There were more vendors, as it appeared to me, than in any other event. Most, if not all, were extremely relevant to the matter at hand. The Ironman merchandise tent was stocked to the brim, that is until we arrived; we made a major dent.

On Friday night, we did not attend the Athlete's Banquet. We chose to spend the time with close friends and a quiet dinner at a local restaurant. I learned from previous experience that this is the best route to take two nights before the big day.

IRON KIDS


On Saturday morning, my grandson participated in the Iron Kids, a one mile run through portion of the Ironman course. Over 500 kids took part in the three distances offered; .25 mile, .50 mile and 1 mile. Colton ran the mile. It is always a treat to watch so many kids involved in events like these at such an early age. Kudos to all the parents getting them there.

While a lot, if not all, of my friends and my daughter chose to do a short swim, bike and run pre-race, I chose to only do a run. I had planned to swim on Saturday, but due to recent shoulder issues I decided against it. I had been feeling no pain, so I opted not to push things the day before the race.

Bike checked in and Gear Bags left at transition without consequence. Perhaps maybe the occasional doubt of whether something was missing. There's always this doubt.

Again on Saturday we went to dinner with more family that had come in, and with more friends. Again, best move made. We opted for a restaurant away from the hustle and bustle. We drove about 15 minutes north of downtown and found ourselves away from the crowds.

RACE DAY

The day started early. When I say early, I mean 3:00 am early. Earlier due to the fact that the night was not spent sleeping well. It never does.

My routine, and it hasn't changed in many a race is to eat two frozen whole wheat waffles, with peanut butter and a splash of honey and a cup of coffee. Starbucks in the lobby of the hotel had opened at 2:30 am. Good thing for Juliana and I would have been without that much needed shot of caffeine. I would also eat a banana about :30 minutes before race time.

An announcement would be made at 4:00 am regarding the water temperature. We were hoping, but not dead set, that it would be a wet suit legal race. It would make matters easier for us and for everyone else. Word came in from an acquaintance that the water temperature was 77f, so the race would be "wet suit optional". We proceeded to plan "B". We would swim with our swim skins. Time to head out.

BODY MARKING AND PRE RACE

We arrived at transition area somewhere around 5:00 am. Our hotel was about .80 mile, we got lucky and a shuttle bus was just leaving from our hotel. We did not have to walk, although walking would have been okay.

My wife Monica and friends Carry and Rodney were volunteering at the body marking area. We found them right away and proceeded to get our numbers and age marked for the race. This was special moment #1 of the day.

After turning in our Special Needs bags and giving our bikes a final check, we gave our friends a hug and proceeded our way to the shuttle was would bus us to the swim start. Go time is getting close, real close.

The swim start was to be a "time trial" format, self seeded, which meant that you would jump in the water in no particular order, one or two or three athletes at a time, in order in which you found yourself in line. For this reason, most folks tried to get in line early, so as not to be in the back of the pack. We waited in line for about one hour, thirty minutes. Longest wait ever.

SWIM START


And so it happened. 7:20 am the cannon went off and the male pros were on their way. A couple of minutes later, another cannon and it was the female pros turn. And then the final cannon. The age groupers, our turn to race had arrived.

The line started moving, slowly at first but then it picked up. By the time we reached the ramp, pace had picked up nicely. And just like that... we were in the water. The race was on.

SWIM

I jumped in the water and hurried out of the way. Didn't want someone to jump on top of me. This was the most stressful part of the entire day. Seriously. Once I found myself a safe distance, which really didn't take but a few strokes, I started my swim. From the first stroke I felt good and comfortable. I was swimming smoothly. I noticed a slight current, so I tried to move as close to the middle of the river as I could so I could take full advantage of this. But so was everyone else, it was very crowded out there.

Not once during the entire swim did I break stroke. One after the other, after the other. I don't remember this happening, ever. As I said before, it felt good.

I have my Garmin set up to notify me at the mile splits. When the first notification came, I remember thinking that it couldn't be, it hadn't been that long. I didn't question it any further, I kept going.

With about an estimated 150-200 yds to go, the water got rough. Choppy, wavy and rough. There were no boats in the water that I could see, so I couldn't figure out where this came from. Had the conditions been like this for the entire swim, it would have been a totally different experience. Glad it wasn't.

As I approached the final buoy and turned left to head to the exit, my right calf got slapped by another swimmer and immediately cramped. I had to make a sudden stop, take a deep breath and stretch to make the cramp go away. It worked enough to allow me to make it to the exit.

The ramp was crowded and the swimmers were taking their time moving away. This is something the volunteers will learn with time. As folks step on those steps, they will have to make them move quickly. There were several of us treading water waiting our turn to get out. The swim out was crowed.

Swim Time: 1:20:06 a PR by days.

As much as I'd like to take full credit for this fantastic (relative term) time, I have to give credit where credit is due... Thank You River Current. My doing or the river's doing, this time will be forever etched as my swim time. A PR at that! Everyone posted an amazing swim times, everyone. The fastest pro clocked in at 40:49 minutes. Yes, the current was a big factor.

T1

There's only one word that could properly describe T1: Crowded. Each and every chair was occupied. Most of us found ourselves changing either sitting on the ground or standing up. It was long and it was difficult.

Immediately upon entering the tent, I drank a Boost. As I made my way to the exit, I ate a Huma gel, combined, it amounted to some 340 calories. This jump started my nutrition plan to be followed on the bike. To replenish calories lost in the swim was a matter of utmost importance. To play nutrition catch up on the bike would spell trouble. I did not have to.

As fast as I was moving the time it took to get in and get out of T1 was still pretty slow. Not sure if the distance between swim finish, T1 and bike out had something to do with it, but that makes no difference. It was still slow.

BIKE

As much as I was trying to pace myself smart, out of the gate, I found that my first bike split was fast. I was flying. However, my heart rate was were it needed to be so I did not worry, as was my cadence. I attribute this to the Boost and Huma I took in the tent. I was fueled and ready to go.

The miles added up in a hurry at first. I made it to the hair pin turn faster than I had thought. I was using mostly, as planned, my small ring.

Not sure of the mileage, but I'm guessing around 20-25 miles in, there was what appeared to be a road block. Police cars with lights on. I remember hoping that that nothing serious had happened. As I approached the area, I saw dirt and sand on the road covering what appeared to be oil. There was an officer cleaning up. I wasn't sure what had happened. Later I learned that someone had dumped oil and tacks on the road. This happened in two different areas. That explained the inordinate number of flats I saw on the course that day. I was lucky, I was spared.

It was at mile 40 that I got the first and best mental boost of the day; my family and a host of friends had traveled to that point to wait for us. Hearing my name and all the cheers was just amazing. Thank you all!

Made it to Special Needs and sorted through my bag. I ate a boiled red skinned potato that my mother-in-law prepared for us, and it hit the spot just like I knew it would. I had been looking forward to this for quiet a few miles. I would have hoped, however, that this had happened a fewer miles further down the road. At mile 50ish, I thought it was too early for Special Needs.

The town of Chickamauga received us greatly. Lots of noise, lots of folks. However, on the second loop everyone was gone! Literally, it was a ghost town.

The second loop proved to be challenging. My toes began to burn around mile 60, and they only got hotter as the miles went on. I stopped once and took my socks off. This helped for a while, just for a little while. When the burning and pain came back, around mile 80sih, I removed my feet from the shoes and pedaled with the feet out of and atop the shoes. Someone asked my if it wasn't a little early to be getting ready for the dismount. Funny I thought. I did not answer, just kept pedaling.

I could feel that my average speed was dropping dramatically; the harder I tried to pedal, or the faster the cadence I attempted, the worst the pain became. I moved on until about mile 105. There I stopped again to put my feet back in my shoes. I did not want to come into town with my feet out. A police officer came by and asked if I was okay. He held my bike while I did this.

Add to the aggravation of this issue the fact that it started to rain hard. It rained on and off for several miles. Still though, I just kept pedaling.

I arrived at T2, once again to the cheers of a welcoming crowd. Immediately I saw my family; wife, daughter, grandson, in-laws and another bunch of friends. I couldn't let them see me hurting. My toes were still killing me.

T2

The good news was that the tent was not any where near as crowded as it was earlier. I had my very own volunteer. He unpacked my bag while I took another Boost and took my wet bike shoes and helmet off. I tried to dry my feet as best as I could so I could put my running socks on. While I was doing this, the volunteer was getting the socks ready to help me put them on. Upon looking at my toes, he immediately gave me the socks and said: "sorry friend, you need to do this yourself. Ouch"

Again, I took much more time in here than I would have liked, but I made it out and that's all that matters.

RUN

The rain was coming down again as I left the tent. Again my family and friends were there to give me good send off. My daughter Marcela was waiting for me a little bit down and she ran with me for a few yards. We stopped to take a selfie! Another huge mental boost.

As I started to get on my running pace, I noticed that the pain in the toes had vanished, or they were numb, I couldn't really tell. I didn't wait to figure it out, I just kept on running.

My plan for long distance running is a 4:1, four minute run, one minute walk. It had served me well at IM Louisville, so that was my target today. I set up my Garmin to beep at these intervals. I had trained like this.

The aid stations were spread out every mile or so. This was nice to see. They were well stocked and well staffed. During this race, the Chicken Broth was Hot. Nice touch! once they brought it out, I drank some at each other station, and a the alternate station, I would drink Cola. I carried my hand held bottle filled with Infinit. Perfect! Except until I left it at a station around mile 18. I took it off to refill it and set on top of a table. I must have been distracted for a moment for I left it behind. I didn't notice this until the following one minute walk, when it was time to take another shot of my mix.

For the most part the course was very well supported with cheering friends and family. Lots of noise, music and signs. These kept the spirits up. Except for the Riverwalk. The Riverwalk and Amnicola Hwy. These were desolate. Except for the aid stations they were lonely. This is where your mind had to be strong. Specially on that second loop. It was dark and did I mention that it was lonely? You were literally by yourself, unless of course you were a fast runner, which I'm not, then you had the company of other runners. Did I mention this was a long and lonely stretch?

I'm not sure where I was when I noticed my Garmin was off. The battery had run out. I had been running for an extensive amount of time and realized my walk break was long overdue. I finished the last who knows how many miles in without my Garmin. Upon realization of this I adapted. I started counting light poles. I would run 6 or seven and would walk 2. In the long run, It worked out just fine however, I'm not sure if I had my actual time I would have been able to shave off those pesky 9 minutes. But no regrets.

One of the perks, if there's ever such a perk, of being one of the slower triathletes, is that you get to see people coming as you are going. You cross paths with friends and fellow triathletes. Every so often you would hear your name being called. It was a team mate or someone you knew. Again, of course, they were coming as I was going.

Three things made my run a happy place: 1). A lot of people kept telling me how good Juliana was doing, how strong and determined she looked. I knew she would, but it was nice to hear this. 2). A friend and fellow participant/triathlete recognized me from a distance and yelled "I love you Mauricio, keep going, you're doing great". It wasn't so much the message, but the timing of the message and the person delivering the message. and 3). Crossing the pedestrian bridge for the second time. Suddenly I found an extra pep on my step and I heard the party at the finish line. I invited everyone I passed to come join me.

FINISH LINE


I began to tactically plan my entrance to the finishers carpet. I wanted a good distance between the runner in front of me and anyone behind me. I slowed down enough to allow a couple to have their glory. As I came down headed towards my destination, I heard my name called. I couldn't recognize who was yelling for me because the spot lights from the finish line were blinding. I found myself from side to side, high-fiving folks on both sides of the chute. And then I heard my name: "Mauricio Sanchez you ARE and IRONMAN". At this very moment I crossed the finish line. Mission Accomplished.

First people I saw after the medal was hung over my neck was my wife Monica and my grandson Colton. This was the sweetest sight of all. This moment will last forever. Next one I saw was Coach Barry and then my friend Randy.

I looked for my daughter Juliana. I didn't see her. She was no where to be found. We had agreed that she would wait for me at the finish line. I made it through to the chocolate milk tent and took two. Then walked to the first available table and sat down. For the first time all day, after the transition tents, I sat down. And then here came Juliana, wobbling along in obvious leg discomfort, with a big ol' smile on her face and a medal hanging around her neck. Sweet! My daughter is now an IRONMAN.



LESSONS LEARNED

I learned that with proper training and a good mind set, everything and anything is possible, regardless what is tossed at you, you have the power to endure and succeed.

I learned that yes, in fact, you are stronger than you think you are, and that strength is as important as endurance.

I learned that an Ironman Journey will give you the confidence you never knew you had.

I learned, or rather continue to confirm, that being a strong swimmer is not a requirement.

I learned that an extra 4 miles on the bike course made no difference whatsoever.

I learned that Little Debbie is in fact, a great Ironman title sponsor.

I learned that technology may be great but you better learn to survive without it.

I learned that being 33rd in your age group is okay

I learned that if I ever do this again, I must practice transitions.

I learned that I will never do this again.


CONCLUSION

I accomplished most, if not everything I set out to do. My goal was to finish a second Ironman race... DONE! My goal was to improve upon my IM Louisville time...DONE! My goal was to finish in one piece...DONE! My goal was to race with my daughter, or rather be on the same course as my daughter... DONE! My goal was to be mentally strong the whole day... DONE! My goal was to have fun and finish with a smile on my face...DONE!

Will I ever do another one? As it stands right now, I'd say the answer is NO. But NEVER say NEVER. There's one thing that needs to be taken care of before I ever, remotely consider this again: I have to fix my "Hot Toe" issue. This was the most excruciating pain and discomfort I have ever felt. My back issues pale in comparison to this. If this is not fixed, then I will have to stick to 70.3 distances or shorter.

I was humbled beyond comprehension by the kind words received from total strangers during the weekend. From the gentleman in the hotel lobby who said to me: "you're a hero in Jackson, Mississippi. Your writings have brought tears to many" to the runner on the course that stopped, hugged me and thanked me. "You have inspired me beyond words", she said, and the gentleman that told me that my "attitude on facebook forums was most welcome, you kept finding the silver lining in every dark cloud". I make mention of this only to keep reminding myself that even if you don't realize it, people are watching and listening to what you do and what you say.

As with any other journey, this one brought many lessons, some already mentioned above, others more private and need not be discussed in public forums, for some of these will need some time and reflection to understand their true purpose and meaning.

In everyone's life and in every journey there are a group of people involved that help us along the way. I'm going to take the time to personally and privately thank each and everyone of you.

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Gratitude of Ironman Proportions

As we approach the tail end of our Ironman Chattanooga training phase, it becomes apparent to us that the Finish Line is truly within our reach.

With this in mind, I'd like to take just a brief moment to express my gratitude to those folks that have been instrumental in allowing me to prepare, physically and mentally, during this journey.

I do this with the risk that I will forget someone, but if I do, I don't do it intentionally. These are the folks that come to mind; those that have walked with me every step of the way. So here's to you:

To my tri team X3 Endurance. You folks have meant the world to me. Your positive attitude and encouragement during all those long training weekends were uplifting to say the least. Thank your Phifer and Eddie for opening your doors to me and to others and allowing us to benefit from your vast pool of resources.

To my Coach, mentor and friend Barry Baird. If anyone, anywhere were to look at your client list, they would find an arm's length of who's who in the tri world; athletes so inspiring and talented, that you would immediately wonder why my name is on that list. You did not limit yourself to providing me with a training plan, but you truly provided guidance along the way. I am proud and will always be proud to call myself an eGeek.

To my friends Rodney Bice, Mike and Carry Haapala, Bob and Joana Riddick. You folks never wagered in your desire to help whenever a call was made. From kayak and dock support during those early Wednesday morning Open Water Swims, to answering the phone when I came up with crazy training ideas and I was looking for help. You unselfishly relinquished your time for us, and I will be forever grateful to you for this.

To my daughter Juliana Sanchez. This journey became more purposeful when you decided that we should do this thing together. I never doubted for even a moment that you were up to the challenge. My concern was, if I may confess, that you would have some trouble arranging your training times. Holding a full time job and being the most awesome single mom I know, I thought would present opportunities for you, but when they did, you handled these with the poise and calm of someone twice your age. You have made me more proud, if that could be possible, than I have ever been. I am proud to be your "daddy". I am proud to race this race with you. I am proud that we are #TeamSanchez. I love you bunches.

To my daughter Marcela Sanchez. Even though you're miles away from me during this process, you have found the way to support; constantly keeping in touch and asking question, planning race day logistics with mother to ensure that everyone has a pleasant experience. Your weekend visits helped to refuel this tired engine and these came just when the doctor ordered them. I can't wait to cross the finish line and you be the first one I give a big hug and kiss to. Love you lots.

To our friend Lindsay Galloway. You are the "andFriends" of #TeamSanchezAndFriends". It has been an honor to train by your side. I remember our very first bike ride together, you have come a long, long way. Your determination to finish this is contagious and encouraging. You battled through some obstacles of your own and you didn't allow these to derail you. You have been a great friend and I have proudly enjoyed our training time together.

And last but definitely not least to my wife Monica Sanchez. Oh my goodness, I don't even know where to begin. When someone speaks of an Ironman widow they must have you in mind. You have spent countless hours alone, but you have never complained. You have stood by my side, no matter what the plan called for. Who else but you would find it fun and okay to give up your weekend and travel to Chattanooga to volunteer your time to support our bike and run course training. Your input and advise has always been timely and needed. You are the rock that holds us together. I love you more than I can express.

As I add miles and minutes to my race in Chattanooga, I will have each and everyone of you in my mind. I will know and understand, that each step along the way is possible only because of each and everyone of you. From the bottom of my heart... THANK YOU... and I'll see you at the Finish Line!
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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Ironman Chattanooga: We Got This

It has been a year to remember. It was on September 4, 2013 when we jumped, head first, into this Ironman journey. Some first timers, others returning to a distance very familiar to them, but all of us dove into the unknown; The Inaugural Ironman Chattanooga. The reasons for doing this, we have previously discussed, are as varied as there are triathletes vying to earn the title of "Ironman".

Through this journey, we were tested. Our will was tested. Our determination and physical endurance was tested. Our mental constitution was tested. We have found how much discomfort and pain we can endure and how far our limits can be extended. We bent, but we did not break.

And now most, if not all of us, will soon enter the taper period of our training; we have long waited for this. We have followed a strict schedule. We piled on the miles in the pool, on the bike and on the pavement. Some came easy, others not so. We worked on improving and perfecting our stroke if only to cut a few seconds. We practiced our nutrition and for the most part, we have it figured out, we pray however, that nothing changes in the next couple of weeks.

We became comfortable and familiar with those 4 am alarms. We ran in the snow. We ran in the rain. We rode with the head wind and when lucky enough, we rode when the wind was at our backs. Those 3 hour rides, became four, then five and then six or more. We rode enough century rides to make ourselves believe that an 80 miler was an easy (relative term) ride. They were not. When our training schedule came in, we gasped at those bricks. Oh my goodness, those bricks. At first they were easy (relative term). Okay, no... they were not.

We realized early on that this could not be possible without the unyielding support of our family. We became strangers in our own home. But questions were never asked and our mission became theirs. There's not enough paper, enough ink, enough space, enough words to express how grateful we are. So we will do this in the privacy of our own homes, in our own words, at the right time. We are lucky. Very lucky.

We got this.

We are nervous, we are stressed, we are apprehensive, we don't know what to expect. Its natural to worry. Its natural to ask. Its natural to wonder. We asked questions because we want to know. We look for support where we can find it and when we find it, we cling to it. We joined a fraternity of Ironman brothers and sisters. Some of us may not be Ironman yet, but all of us, God willing, will be.

As race day approaches our mind set will be on notice; on high alert. On very high alert. We will be touchy, moody, short tempered and most of us will become quiet. Very quiet. We will climb into a shell and turn off the chatter. We now have the information we need to figure this out. What's our plan again? What will I do? How will I perform? How will I swim? Bike? Run? Lost of questions that we know the answers to but now its time to put it all together.

We will visualize. Every step of our day, we will visualize. We will leave nothing to chance. But we know we cannot predict everything so we will be at peace knowing that we will race the race that's given us and execute the plan we bring. What's beyond our control, we will accept, adapt and move on.

We are at peace.

And now you're there. Time that has been filled with never ending workouts, is now filled with that well earned rest. But while you know you need this rest, your mind will begin to wonder as it begins to wander. There will  be doubt. Have I done enough? What if I had done this? What if I had done that? What happens if? This happens because your mind doesn't know yet, what your body already does. Yes, you are ready.

Have Faith. Have faith in your training. Have faith in yourself.

Finishing an Ironman is no accident. It's the result of hard work, determination and grit. It's the result of those never ending workouts. The results of that missed family time. The result of endless self conversations when you asked yourself why you were doing this. Remember that first bike ride or first solo run when you wondered how in the world would you be ready? That seems so long ago.

And now you're here, among the hundreds of hopefuls. Among the crowd of nerves. Your bags have been turned in, your body has been marked and you have found your place in line. A line that will inch closer to the start when the cannon sounds. When the cannon sounds you will know that your day is about to begin, you will know that you will soon morph into the beast you trained to become. You put on your swim cap, and for one last time, you adjust your goggles.

You jump into the river. The swim will be long. It will take forever, but you reach your destination and when the volunteers reach to give you a helping hand you will know, with a smile on your face you will show, that that one very important step in your journey is behind you. Its time to move on for the clock is ticking. You have cut-off times to meet; no time to celebrate. There will be plenty of that later. But first things first. Time to get on the bike.

As you find your way into the course you will hear the crowd. Yes, those cheers are for you. They're all for you, and those around you. As the miles come, the crowd will thin and the clock will tick. You settle into a pace and you become one with your bike, one with the road. You have broken down your ride into segments because 112 miles at once is much more than you can image right about now. The first 20 miles go by, then the next 20. Before you know it you've reached your special needs bag where you will find, among other things comfort in knowing that your ride is half way done. You saddle up again and you keep going. 20 more mile after 20 more miles.

And now you're in your home stretch. You see the crowds getting bigger and bigger again. You reach your destination and a crowd of volunteers are waiting for you, waiting to take your bike and have you go on. Yes, you have a date with a marathon. You hand off your bike and another volunteer is waiting to hand you your running bag. You go into the tent and quickly realize that from here on out, it's all up to you, your own two legs. Swim... check. Bike...check. Run... here we go.

Keep your Focus. On the task at hand.

And then you're off. First step of a thousand. Your legs are heavy, but they want to move. You fight the desire to push it right off the gate, you know if you do, it will get ugly. So you pace yourself. You have a plan. You will run your plan.

You make it to the first mile, the first aid station. You walk through this because you have to, not because you want to. You take something cold. It's going to be a long haul and you have to settle into your run. You remember you have a plan, you have. to run. your plan.

The miles come slowly. Much slower than you wish they did, but you battle through with the help of the crowd. Your family and your friends are close to you, closer than they've been all day. They encourage you to keep going. You do it. You move on. People are holding signs, you read them. You read them all. You smile at some, you laugh at others. Right about now they all make sense even if they don't. "I'll have to remember that one" you tell yourself.

Half way through you make it to your second, and last, special needs bag. You know now that you have 13.1 miles (give or take) to go. You can do this. You find encouragement in what you find in your bag, perhaps its a note, or maybe a picture, or a verse. Something you put in there to help you make it home. Again, you smile and you keep going.

The aid stations are your salvation. Not just because of the goodies they have for you, but because of the volunteers. Those awesome people that gave up their day to make sure you have a good day. You thank them, you thank them all. That puts a smile on your face, which puts a smile on their face. And then there it is, Chicken Noodle Soup. Cold Chicken Noodle Soup. Take the Chicken Noodle Soup. And flat Cola. Yes, take this as well.

You've heard of mile 18. This will be your last test. You wait for it. If you're lucky you'll run right through it. It hurts. It hurts like hell but you run right through it. You past the test. If you're not lucky enough you'll have to slow down, way down. Maybe you'll have to stop. Stop if you must, but never sit down. Don't ever sit down.

You reach mile 20 and you know that its all downhill from here. Each step is a struggle but you fight through this. One foot in front of the other. Slower than before but you still manage. You find encouragement giving out encouragement. Find a buddy, find a friend, find a stranger. There are no strangers on the course at this point. We're all friends. We're all together in this. Someone else is struggling just like you are. Give them a lift. This will give you a lift.

3.1 miles to go. That's a 5k. With no disrespect to anyone out there, you think to yourself "I can do this in my sleep". The finish line is within reach.

You will Finish strong.

All the emotions of your entire Ironman journey will come together at this point. You'll have flashbacks of all those times when you thought you could never, or how in the world. You pick up your pace because now you can. You found it within you. You're coming home in style.

And then there it is. The finisher's chute awaits you. It's lined up, both sides, with people watching you. All eyes are on you. You've planned it just right and you're there all alone. You're high-fiving each and everyone in sight. Yes sir, yes ma'am, these cheers, the applause, its all for you. You have earned it.

And then you hear it. You've dreamed of this moment. You thought of this moment, and here it is. You cross the finish line, you hear your name. Your legs are wobbly for they have no more, some may need a catcher, others will not. There's no shame in needing a catcher. You let them help you if you need it. They put that medal around your neck, they give you a bottle of water. They take your picture and they hand you off to your loved one.

You hug them. All of them. Everyone cries. You don't want to let go, for you want this moment to last forever. And then, just like that you realize that you in fact are an IRONMAN.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Really Big Deal

At least for me, its a really, really big deal.

It is no secret that swimming and I have a love-hate relationship at the very best... and the "love" portion of that relationship is a stretch.

Nothing in this wonderful journey has ever made me lose sleep like swimming has. Nothing. But I have come to terms with it. I have learned to love to swim. And again, "love" is a stretch.

I played golf in a previous life. Well, I went out and hit a few balls every now and then. They would hook, they would slice and every once in a blue moon, they would go straight, I would hit the fairway, I would miss the bunkers and avoid the water. They tell me that this is golf's way of making you come back again.

Swimming I have found out, is very similar. I would have those swims that goodness, made me wonder what in the world I was doing. Those, early on, were the majority. Then I started seeing progress, albeit small progress but progress nonetheless.

This year I have worked very hard on my swim. Not because I want to break world records, but because I know that working very hard is the only way to stay where I was. It requires a lot of work to not take a step back.

The early morning swims have become my favorite. Swimming in the afternoon is tough. But sometimes we have to do what we  need to do to get the job done. Swimming in the lake is now my favorite place to swim. The pool, specially those long sessions, I try to avoid. I seem to swim faster and longer in the lake. Perhaps it has to do with knowing that I can't stop, that I can't stand and take a breather. Also, there's no black line, there's no wall to push from.

Last week on Wednesday, I hit the swimming golf ball straight into the fairway. I went 2.5 miles, non-stop in some four minutes faster than I did in Ironman Louisville in 2011. Yes, for me this is a big deal. I will still be in the back of the pack in my age group in the swim, but this I'll take.

I will continue to swim my laps. I will continue to swim open water as time allows. I will continue to believe that I'm doing everything within my power to maintain, if not ever so slightly, improve my time.

I will show up on September 28 ready to swim. I will take whatever the Ironman gives me. Whatever time limit I have, whatever cut-off time is placed upon me. All my energy will be spent on matters I can control, not in any that I can't. I will swim my swim, one stroke at a time. I will make it to the swim exit where my wife and daughter will be waiting and I will see in their face how happy they are that I have conquered the Ironman Swim...and at this point my race begins.
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Friday, August 8, 2014

Ironman Goals


A very interesting, and dynamic, conversation is taking place right at this moment in facebook. Various opinions from a gamma of folks with what appears to be a world of difference in abilities and expectarions. In a nutshell, it all revolves around Ironman Goals.

I have chosen to move my opinion here because frankly, I have a bit more latitude and space to provide said opinion.

I agree 100% with the statement that no one should "sell themselves short". I did for many a year. If not for my coach pushing, pulling and dragging me, I wouldn't have set a more specific goal, one that was more than "I just want to finish".

I have to tell you that I have the world's best coach. I have been with him since the day after Ironman 70.3 Augusta. My first long distance triathlon. It was then and there that I realized I needed someone with a bit more expertise to help me navigate through this treacherous waters. No pun intended. He has taught me how to set goals that go beyond my perceived limitations; he has pushed me beyond my comfort zone.

Can anyone be a 12, 13 or 14 hour Ironman Triathlete? It depends on the athlete. If I were to chose for my Ironman Chattanooga goal to be 14 hours, much less any faster, I know I would fail. The most important element of a true goal is that it needs to be realistic. Realistic for me is 15 hours. I know my body, I know what it will take, I know what it can do and I know what I need to do to get it done. Each and every workout, I push a little bit further, because this "bit" is what's going to get me to my goal.

One of the most important roles of a coach is to be a motivator. We can't have one that tells us that we aren't good enough. A good coach should know how far to push and when to push. As much as a good coach should help us set those realistic goals.

I would love to win my age group. I would love to qualify for Kona. If I were to call Coach Barry and tell him that, he would immediately tell me that "we need to have lunch tomorrow".

Everyone means well. That I understand. I know that as triathletes we have learned to be motivators. We have learned that a little smack in the back of the head, or a swift kick in the seat of the pants is what we sometimes need, and we have learned to give that out when we deem it necessary. With that being said...

If I were to post on facebook that I'd like to win my age group, that I'd like to qualify for Kona, I am certain that I would get a tremendous amount of well intended encouragement from everyone. But what if I were to give you additional information. What if I were to tell you that I am 60 years young, or will be one week after Ironman Chattanooga, that I have been doing triathlons for 5 short years, that I am a consistent "middle of the pack" triathlete, that I have a bulging disk and another one herniated. What if I were to tell you that I've had two tumors removed from my left ankle and that after mile 15 of any race, it hurts like the dickens. Would you still give me the same encouragement? Would you think that my goal was a smart one? Attainable? Realistic?

Believe me is not for the lack of wanting it badly. Is not for the lack of desire or grit. Is just plain and simple... my body will not give that much. I know my limits. My coach knows my limits. We work within those limits.

I have improved in the past two years in the swimming and cycling disciplines. I maintain steady in the run. I have worked my tail off to improve on my Ironman Louisville time. And because of this, I have made my next Ironman Goal a sub 15 hours. Is this realistic and aggressive? For me, you betcha! Does this scare me? Yes, scares the hell out of me!
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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mind Games

"Our reaction to a situation literally
has the power to change the situation itself."

We have all heard the old saying: "Pain is temporary, pride is forever", but often times getting from the "pain" to the "pride" is a treacherous proposition.

As triathletes and runners, as well as cyclists and swimmers, we have our training plan nailed to the smallest detail. We know what to do, when to do it and how to do it. We get up each and everyday knowing exactly what's on the agenda for that particular date and time; how long a swim, how long a ride, how long a run.  We watch our progress as time ticks and brings us closer to our goal, whatever that may be.

But as time passes, our body begins to take a hit. The longer the workouts, the more difficult they seem. Progression is methodical but it takes it's toll on our joints, bones, muscles and most dangerously, our mind.

As our physical being begins to ache, we often know what to do. A date with our masseuse, a session with the foam roller, a stint in the hot tub or ice bath, an extra day's rest. Most often, one or a combination of these, is enough to get us back on track.

But what happens when we begin to feel sluggish, in a way that we start not looking forward to our workouts? What happens when the struggle to finish the laps or miles becomes a chore as opposed to a a joy? One of the most important elements of our journey is the "fun". We must have fun. We must look forward to each workout. We must look forward to the progression and the work required to see improvement. Without fun, well... it's not going to be worth it.

At least for me. I have to have fun. But remember that "fun" is relative.

We are not the only ones that are affected when we lose the edge. Our personality changes and those around, those that support our journey, are affected as well. We become irritable, we complain about "everything", we start driving our loved ones away. All of the sudden we could find ourselves alone.

But we continue. We continue because we're not quitters. We continue because, heaven forbid, we made a commitment and we're going to follow through, no matter what. But the journey becomes miserable and gets more difficult each and every day.

So, what's going on? How did we get here? How did things fall so far out of control?

Mind Games.

Before I go on, I must tell you that I'm not a Sport Psychologist, I don't have a fancy degree in the matter, I haven't studied hundreds of subjects to come up with any answers. What I have however, is experience. Real life experience in the subject.Those of you that have followed me for any time at all know that I am not a life long athlete, far from it. Real far from it. At age 52, I was still on the couch, gaining weight and wasting my life away. And then things changed.

I have learned that the body will go longer and farther than the mind thinks is can. Often, the mind wants you to give up, to call it a day, long before your body is ready to do so. You're tired, you ache, there are a thousand other things, your mind tells you, you'd rather be doing. You will look for excuses and options. "I will do this workout later", "I really need to take today off", "my knee hurts", "it's cold outside", "the wind is blowing", "the water is cold", "the sun is in my eyes", etc.

So I have a plan. And I work my plan.

1). I always take the stinking thinking thing and turn it into a positive. When it shows up, I know its time to buckle down and push through. It's my sign.

Regardless of the race I'm training for, I always have a reason and a "goal" for doing said race. This reason is one that I have to believe in and know it adds value to my life and those around me. Once this goal is cemented in my mind, I won't let go. I take it with me wherever I go. Because I know that sooner or later, I will need to refer back to it.

Sometime during the Peak Phase of our training, its when we need to pull this little gem out. On that killer Brick workout, in weather exceeding acceptable levels, our mind is pushing and pushing hard. Our legs are heavy, our lungs are tired. Our family misses us and our friends... well, what friends?! You want to go back, you want to cut your training short. Heck, a couple of hours less today, will not make a difference? or will it? I will know. I will know that I turned back. I wont be happy. But its hard. Real hard.

Remember the reason you're doing this? Remember it well, for this is the time when you need it. This is the time when you want to revisit and refer back to it. Strong enough a reason and you'll finish your workout. You'll finish strong. You'll finish proud. you'll feel good, much better than you feel had you turned back. I won't lie to you, it will suck, but you'll be proud.

2). Visualization. I am a strong believer in visualization. I visualize everything. A good swim. A great ride, an awesome run, and yes, a fast transition. I visualize myself at the starting line. I visualize myself coming out of the water. I visualize myself finishing my bike in one piece. I visualize myself on the run, making it to aid station number one and then two, and then... I visualize mile 17 and thinking "not today, no walls today." And finally, I visualize myself entering the finishing carpet, all alone, having the crowd cheering and knowing that each one of those cheers is just for me. I visualize my wife and daughters, family and friends, all of them at the finish line. It's been a long day, and they're still there. I visualize Mike Reilly calling me in: "Mauricio Sanchez you ARE and Ironman." I visualize all this. And if this doesn't get you goose bumps, nothing will.

3). Mantra. Everyone's gotta have a mantra. Do you?  Sometime before IMKY 2011, I started thinking of one. I knew that I had to have FAITH in my training, in my body and in myself. I knew that I had to have FOCUS. It's gonna be a long, long day. I can't lose my Focus. I have to keep what's important, important. And my mission that day was to FINISH and finish strong. So there it was, my new mantra; FAITH. FOCUS. FINISH. I believe in this so much, I had bracelets made. I've spread a few around. If you want one, drop me a note.  I wear my bracelet anytime I train, any time I race. Any event, any distance. On the bike, I can see it most of the time when I'm aero. On the run, I look at it when the going gets tough. If my Road ID goes on, and it always does, my bracelet goes on as well.

Everyone has a system. This is mine. It's worked and I expect it will continue to work. What do you do? How do you get out of the funk?

The next four/five weeks of IMChoo training are going to get tough, very tough. You're going to doubt, you're going to second guess your decision, you're going to wish you never started this, but you will hold strong for you have a reason, you can see yourself at the starting line and then through the finish line. At times it's not going to be fun, but "fun" is relative.

However, you will make it and I WILL see YOU at the finish line!

"Our environment, the world in which we live in
is a mirror of our attitude and expectations"
~ Earl Nightingale
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