To read the first part of the huzband’s Ironman journey, check it out here.
All photos from this post are from the official Ironman Lake Placid event.
Coming out on my bike, I was able to see my girl around the first corner out of the transition area. You have no idea what it means to see family: my little V cheering for me and holding up a giant Colombian flag. It was so easy to spot them from far away because I honestly think I was the only athlete among the 2,500 that was from Colombia. A good way to start my bike leg.
The bike leg is the longest of all: 112 miles of hills and then, more hills. Lake Placid has some serious elevation when all is said and done. People were passing me left and right; it felt like I was moving 10 miles per hour but I was focused on simply keeping my effort to the minimum. I had many chances to chat with people along the course and share about what had happened to my back. Everyone was so encouraging.
Around mile 20 one guy asked if I was in pain? My answer was yes, however it is getting better as each mile went by. Another woman asked me about the words on my bicycle frame, “I CARE AND SO I TRI” and I was able to share about my rock star gang at Team World Vision. I told her how people are in desperate need of clean water and how we can make a difference by participating in a race and fundraising for clean water. She was so inspired and promised to check the website. Another 2 guys complemented me on a 10-mile hill. Turns out I had actually set the pace without even knowing it and when reaching the top, they came up next to me and said thanks. By the time I was done with the first loop of the bike leg (56 miles) my back was feeling better.
I was nervous all around and I did not want the pain to return. I was so nervous about finishing the 112 miles followed by running a full marathon with back pain, however I prayed and prayed and prayed more. I remembered those times in life when things were hard yet something carries you.
The second loop was actually enjoyable. I saw my girls once again at the beginning of the second loop and stopped to give them a hug and a kiss. Seeing them brought so much joy, an overwhelming feeling of happiness and wholeness. It is hard to describe but their presence helped me; it recharged me. See an Ironman race is not just an athletic event; you are reminded of challenging times in life, you have hours by yourself to think, pray and remember where you have come from and the amazing future ahead. For me seeing my loved ones was a reminder of God’s goodness in life. Going into the second loop on the bike, I began to feel that punch in my legs. It is hard to describe but when you do endurance events you actually feel every muscle in your legs. To me it was a sign God had touched my back. There was no more pain and I noticed my cadence began to flow easier on the steep hills in upstate New York. I think I did the 120 miles in about 6 hours and 58 minutes. By the time I was done with the bike, my back pain was completely gone.
The last 26.2 miles is the marathon leg. The run part of Ironman can break the most experienced of runners and turn them into a zombie like walker. Running a marathon distance by itself is no joke; you’re pushing your body beyond its limits and it is a constant battle of body versus mind. For me the marathon leg was a long conversation with God. I replayed in my mind many memories from life, from the dark years in Colombia to the joys of my childhood, from leaving Colombia to coming to the States, from the years of hard labor and abuse as an illegal alien to the joys of becoming an U.S. citizen, from the struggle of realizing there were only $20 for my first semester of college to the joy of graduating college after 7 years with less than $2000 in debt and everything else being paid in cash, and to the joy of meeting, dating and falling in love with my one and only Rachel, our marriage, and the birth of my girl. My gosh, so much I cannot list everything here.
I kept my heart rate very low at about 130 bpm. I know half way point of a marathon is not 13 miles but is really considered to be around mile 18-20, that is when most people hit a wall. I wanted to get to mile 20, assess how I was feeling and see what I had left in the tank. Once I reached mile 20, with 6 miles to go, I realized I was feeling great. I still had a 2.5 miles nasty hill between miles 20 to 24.5, however I decided to kick up the pace a bit. Looking back at my report and my split times, I realize I not only kicked up the pace but from mile 20 to the end of the marathon leg, I was doing “negative splits”. Negative split refers to a person going faster and faster each mile, instead of each mile taking longer and longer. I ended up running my last mile, after 139.6 miles total, with a rocking under 9 minute pace.
As I entered the famous “Lake Placid ring”, where the “Miracle On Ice” took place decades ago (where the U.S. beat Russia to win the Hockey winter Olympics), I couldn’t hold the joy coming from within me. I was looking for that Colombian Flag, for my girls. I spotted them on the last bend before the final stretch to the finish. I stopped where they were and remember telling Rae that I could have not done this without her. She sacrificed so much of our family time, so many Saturday’s with me doing insanely long workouts (at the peak of training, there was about 9 hours of cardio). She helped me with nutrition all along the way and encouraged me to hit the road when I was feeling lazy. She deserved to receive a medal as much as I did. I recall so vividly my sweet, full of energy little V yelling, “Go on daddy… finish… go!”
Out of another 3 guys I know competing that day, one got pulled out of the water and was out of the race. Another went to the medical tent and spent some time there till they got his body hydrated again and he was able to finish the race. My other friend finished with only minutes to spare but it really didn’t matter. He was celebrating turning 50 and now has bragging rights for life! Hope I can say the same at 50! (Proud of you John!)
I have been enjoying this past year post Ironman. I only participated in a 13.1 (half marathon) race with my 4 month pregnant wife. Besides that, I have enjoyed not having an actual race to train for. I am still active, running and biking but there is no pressure to hit the daily workouts. I am sure I will do another Ironman, perhaps in a few years… maybe for my 40th birthday celebration!
See Ironman is only an event yet to me it represents the struggle of believing that in the most desperate, dark situations in life there is always joy and peace for us who believe in an all-powerful God, for us who believe that miracles are still possible!