NOTE: I decided to re-post one of my posts from last year, from my tri blog. I hope you like it. For all of you who don’t think you can get through and do something you consider impossible, consider this.
In April, Joseph asked me, “When are you going to start training?”
“Eventually,” I had replied. He was referring to the 70.3 Ironman Cancun in September.
My knee still felt a little weird and I couldn’t run 30 minutes without this strange pain in my left patella.
I hit the gym. I worked on my quads. I started to run.
But I felt heavy.
I started calorie counting one day. And I didn’t realize that working out gives an extra bit of calories you can use, past your recommended daily amount. I knew that I was hitting the limit for the day when I went swimming. I ended up doing a two-hour session that particular day, including a half hour warm up (which didn’t count because I got out of the pool to chat with someone; training has to be continuous to count) and did a 1,000 meter warm-up to replace the warm up that didn’t count.
That night, I didn’t eat dinner. That next morning, I was so completely depleted, I couldn’t think straight.
I need help. Professional help.
The nutritionist, Lorena, pulled out the tape measure and the calipers and started measuring my quads, my calves, my arms, pulling at my skin and took down the measurements. She typed everything into the computer.
I was diagnosed with class 1 obesity. A healthy woman carries between 18.5% to 24% of body fat.
I had 33%.
I was 33 lbs overweight.
Even after I had gone for my run and well on into the night, I was still thinking about it.
And I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
How did I let myself go? How did I stop caring about myself?
I felt ugly. I felt like I couldn’t be attractive. I hated this shell I was living in.
I asked myself how could a man ever want to touch me ever again?
I felt fat.
In my mind, I saw the door. That door that would let in all the hate that I could ever want to own. I would let it consume me and I could feel hidden and safe in the pain of humiliation. I stretched my hand towards the knob and gripped.
Then, a stronger and more lucid version of me appeared in front of me. Lucid-Fumiko took me by the shoulders, shook me and let a back-hand slap fly.
She bitch-slapped me. Hard.
You’re better than that.
Just give the diet two weeks.
The first week was pure torture.
I ate exactly what Lorena told me to eat and when. I would eye the food on my desk and turn away quickly, patiently waiting out the rumblings in my stomach.
I would hold myself at my desk, totally not concentrated on work, willing away the hunger pangs, filling myself with tea to hold me over.
Two weeks later, I was on the scale again with Lorena.
“Oops…” she said a little nervously. “I think I overdid it.”
In two weeks, I had lost nearly nine pounds.
She proceeded immediately to adjust my diet.
Two months later, three days before the 70.3, my diet changed into what Lorena called “the dream diet of all my weight-loss patients”. I was eating mashed potatoes, white bread and tons of pasta. I needed to build up my energy reserve so that I can go the distance without completely crashing.
I felt pretty ill afterwards. I can’t believe I used to eat like that.
When I started with Lorena, I was clocking in at 169 lbs. Before my three-day carb-loading session, I had gotten down to 145.
On the morning of the competition, Clau, Fer and I arrived to find a very good parking spot at 4:30 in the morning.
At 5:30, the transition area was opened and I set up camp. Soon, the area was buzzing with people.
“You’ve got ten minutes to get to the swim start before we close the transition area!” said the woman on the sound system.
Someone had lent my pump to another person and Claudia went to get it. I was on my way to the car to leave my backpack and when I turned around, there was no one behind me.
Come on, people! WE need to get out of here now!
I run into Damian by the entrance, stretching calmly.
“Hey, do you have some Vaseline you could lend me?”
We have eight minutes before transition closes and you are asking me this now?
We hurried to the car, back to transition and down to the beach.
At the beach, I hydrate and get a swim in. The sun rose and I stood waiting for my heat to be called. As each group went forward, I started getting more and more nervous. This wasn’t the first time I was doing this but with the weight loss and the training, I felt like a different person.
I stood there with Ana and an overwhelming sense of emotion filled me.
I was here again, doing this which most think they cannot do. And I felt lucky.
My eyes got watery and I rested my head on Ana’s shoulder. Another athlete patted me on the shoulder and he looked me straight in the eye, as if he were saying to me, “You can do this.”
Call my group forward already. I’m about ready to lose it.
“Pink caps please come forward!” I hugged Ana quickly and went with my group.
I watched the previous heat swim past the first buoy.
Hop, skip and a jump, I dove into the water and started.
Someone swam past me and when she lifted her arm out of the water, she elbowed my goggles off. There was water in the goggle sockets and I couldn’t see. I rearranged them and continued on.
I passed up one buoy. And then, another.
By the time I got to buoy 5, I thought to myself, where the hell is the turn?
At the turn, someone else elbowed me in the eye, causing my goggles to stick right on my face.
Since when did swimming become a contact sport?
As I came back in the home stretch, for the first time in the water during a swim, my bladder just opened up.
I mentally said sorry to the person who was behind me.
As I neared the timing mat at T1, I ran out of the water, pulled off my cap and goggles and smiled for the camera as I ran past.
I got to my bike, slapped my race belt on, threw my glasses on my face, snapped my helmet on my head and ran out of Transition with my bike. I got on and sped out of the park.
For some reason, however, my stomach wouldn’t settle and for the rest of the ride, I burped. Water poured out of my nose (a side effect from swimming) and I was a leaking, gassy mess for the whole ride.
On the highway to Merida, I was racing another girl, as we had a cat-and-mouse chase. I would pass her up for a bit and then she’d pass me up.
She dusted me in the last 18 miles.
And even as I was coming back from my last bike lap, I was amazed that there were still a good number of people behind me.
I ran into T2 and felt how the asphalt burned the balls of my feet. Julio Cesar was taking photos of me with my nose dripping (I still had water from the swim in my system) and wincing in pain as I ran to my rack.
I was definitely NOT in my most fashion-forward moment.
Someone had removed my bright orange scarf, marking where my station was, and it took me a minute to find my stuff.
I took off the bike stuff and put on my cap and flew.
On the run, I felt the ease of running off the bike after weeks of brick training. But the burping started up again. And the balls of my feet felt burnt.
Ice and cold water. I threw ice into my suit and sprayed my face with cold water, remembering that I still hadn’t erected a monument to these two amazing creations of nature. There are few things in life better than the sensation of cold water on your face and ice in your lady garden on a very hot day.
|Ruben Grande in his own swim start|
I saw Ruben Grande. A very loved and respected triathlete of our community, his prosthetic leg was causing him problems. His face winced as he moved to the side of the road.
“Let’s go Ruben!” I cried. “I love you!”
On my way down the last three miles, a heavier set man ran towards the turn I had just left.
And I remembered: that was me last year.
Up ahead, there was a guy in a yellow bike jersey with the DHL logo on the back who was walking.
“Come on, DHL! Let’s go!” I shouted at him.
He started running but would resume walking after 20 yards.
“How much further is it to the finish line?” he asked.
“I think it’s another two miles,” I replied.
He was silent. The heat was beating him up.
With a mile left, I shouted at him, “Come on, DHL! Express delivery’s for today! Not tomorrow!”
At 500 meters from the finish, Irapuato was still there, like he was the year before.
A familiar face. Oh God, a familiar face.
I started to lose it.
I grabbed his hand as we sprinted to the finish.
“Two years in a row,” he had said. All his other words were getting lost in my sobs.
I forgot about everything I just did and ran as hard as I could.
At the finish, I wandered through the maze of hydration booths, pizza tables and the massage area, picked up my medal and t-shirt and walked out to the Elite Cyclery booth where my friends congratulated me.
But I was dazed; something was missing.
Just then, Fer Luna (who finished in 6:01) spotted me and I started to lose it.
A familiar face, oh God. A familiar face.
Even as he hugged me, he joked “Are you going to start bawling again?”
And there, in the midst of bike shoes and saddles, I wore every single emotion I had, on my sleeve and on his. I sobbed silently into his shoulder.
I had poured my heart and all of my soul into this competition. Perhaps, at times, I suffered. Perhaps, at times, I wondered what the hell I was doing. And perhaps, at times, I felt rejected, unloved and ugly. But I knew in that moment that regardless of how badly I could be beaten, this emotion within me, this strength that lead me to the finish line and this belief that I will not be broken are all things I must be faithful to. That I am a triathlete. That I’m sick in the head, a bit twisted and my idea of fun in my spare time is torturous for most.
But this is what reminds me that I am alive. That I have something worth fighting for. That this heart that beats in my chest cannot love anything less worthy.
In 1918, American labor leader Eugene V. Deb was sentenced to ten years in prison for making unpatriotic speeches against the Wilson administration. Having had to defend himself, the most memorable statement he made during the trial was as follows:
“Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”
I am a triathlete and I remember that I have lost. That I have lost weight I don’t need. That I have lost minutes off last year’s time. And I recognize my kinship with, and am humbled by, people like Ruben Grande and the 300-pound man who crossed the finish line and who, despite the odds, finished because they had the one thing that united all of us who have ever finished no small feat like that which is a 70.3: the simple yet powerful belief that we can.
|70.3 Ironman Cancun 2009|
|70.3 Ironman Cancun 2011(Photo: Adrian Malaguti a.k.a. Bardem-Downey Jr)|