One of my goals in 2017 is to move to a more video blog. Here is a video on making a choice.
One of my goals in 2017 is to move to a more video blog. Here is a video on making a choice.
It’s most Ironman triathlete’s dream to go to the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. Some triathletes are fast enough to qualify year in and year out, and others will do 12 Ironman triathlons and try to get into through the legacy program. Then there are the charity fundraising slots. It was my plan to age up into a slot where I could be fast enough to qualify and be an old guy who thinks he could race.
A good friend of mine ran it by me that I should try and raise $50,000 to race in Kona. That’s right, the Super Bowl of triathlon. He was able to raise it for his 2016 race, and immediately thought of me for 2017. My first thought honestly was, why me? As we spoke it became clear that my story is such an inspiration to many, and that I deserved it. As we spoke more I shared my concerns in that $50K is a LOT of money and that I’m not sure I’ll be able to do it without A LOT of help. I’m just not a good fundraiser. We spoke some more and I told him that I would think about it and get back to him.
SmileTrain is a charity that fixes cleft palate for children around the globe. I mean who doesn’t want to help kids smile? Shouldn’t everyone have a smile? Those of us without cleft palate take for granted what a smile does for us. A smile tells others how we feel without having to physically say anything. A smile that we see on others makes us feel better when we’re having a bad day. Personally, I love making people smile. It doesn’t matter what the age is.
The seed was planted. I immediately started to think about it, and weight out all my options. I questioned myself, cause my gut feeling was to do it. I was pretty much afraid of failing. It was a huge leap, but I couldn’t ignore my gut. I’m always preaching to my clients that they need to get outside their comfort zone. You can’t let the fear paralyze you from making a choice. I spoke to my mom about it, she’s always been my biggest supporter and she mentioned that I’ve always found a way to overcome every challenge that I’ve taken on. She was right. I’ve overcome obesity, alcoholism, self-confidence problems, and most anything that I’ve put my mind to or decided to accomplish. I’ve got a killer team helping me with this and plenty of support. I deserve the chance to continue to inspire others and embody the mantra of Ironman “Anything is Possible”.
So what’s next? Well, first will be a strategy pow-wow with my team. First though I still can’t believe what I just did.
First half marathon ever back in 2008, couldn’t run 1 mile without having to walk. Took me over 3 hours to finish… 3:16:09 to be exact. Every step I took was filled with a constant battle of a version of myself saying “This is stupid, I’m no runner. I’m Fat, these people are fast. I don’t belong here.” The other version saying “If that guy can do it, you can do it. It might take you all day long, but you will cross that finish line.” Back then I couldn’t run 1 mile without having to walk. So I walk/ran, I ran what I could and then walked till I could run again. I did a 5K earlier that August in my quest for weight loss with a time of 37:45 and I wanted to die afterwards. In fact after both races even though I finished, I let that negative self-talk tell me that in fact I was not a runner. I made up my mind that I hated running. For 2 years I let this train of thought derail my weight loss and I stopped running all together.
Then in 2010 I ran the Carlsbad Half Marathon again (pictured above on the left). I had some friends sign up and they wanted me to run it with them. I agreed to. Here I was faced with the same voices in my head, negative and positive. This time I couldn’t run at all… I walked my way to a 3:49:01 finish. That’s right, I walked all 13.1 miles. There was a level of dissatisfaction in knowing that I couldn’t run a whole mile. I felt deflated and let down. I wasn’t proud of finishing in a little under 4 hours. I let the negative self-talk win again for years to come. I didn’t have any guidance from anyone. Social Media was just starting to take off, and it’s nothing like it is today for people. I kept telling myself I have to try harder, and when I failed I’d beat myself up over it. Most people know how it goes… I’m not good enough, I’m too fat, I don’t belong here. Almost everyone who’s overweight knows that mentality. We believe that this is OK, and that if we aren’t hard on ourselves no one else will be. We see what the fitness industry puts out as the “No Pain, No Gain” mentality, or the CrossFit mantra that you need to have bloodied shins or hands. No one tells us right off the bat, that this is wrong and destructive. It’s not just destructive to our bodies, it’s destructive to who we are.
I let this mentality drive me to the gym every morning. I lifted the weights, I ate according to what the “experts” said in the articles. Nothing was changing, the scale was the same number week in and week out… 270-290lbs. My body fat% was stuck in the same rut of 21% to 25%. Like anyone who’s trying to lose weight, this infuriated me more than someone cutting me off. I’d frantically look at what I was eating, what I was doing to work out. I know I chatted the ears off some friends over it as well. None of it made sense, and I didn’t pay any attention to it at the time. I neglected how I thought of myself and how I thought of how I approached things. I not once thought of how my negative mindset was like shooting myself in the foot on a daily basis. Sadly this was not the defining moment where my life changed and I had that a-ha moment. I let this continue into triathlon training. It got me through training, racing, and training. Inside it was the same frantic beat myself up over it. The search through the data revealed nothing, so I’d train even harder. I knew the saying, you need time to recover yada, yada, yada, but I didn’t believe it. Remember… no pain no gain. I knew the workout smarter, not harder stuff. I didn’t believe it, and I made the excuse that it didn’t pertain to me because I was fat. Fat people didn’t have the luxury to recover. We can rest/recover when we’re dead. I rationalized it all with “I’m harder on myself than anyone else.” I didn’t do it publically either. I did it when no one else was watching. We and I, in my opinion make/made up reasons to keep thinking that way and give us a way out, “I’m trying to, I’m a work in progress, or I can’t”. Les Brown has a saying that when we fight for our limitations, we can keep them. That is what I have done and many others continue to do.
Finally, at some point down the road I started to embrace that I wasn’t ever going to be a fast triathlete. Yes, I was a fast Clydesdale triathlete, but I wasn’t a fast triathlete. It probably was the best and most profound choice. It was around this time that I actually started to believe in myself. I embraced “I might not be fast, but I’m doing it, and I’m having fun!” I was able to change my entire mindset towards everything. When I stopped worrying about how fast I was, it was a whole new world that opened up. I stopped worrying about being lean and thin, and just let my body do what it was going to do. Sure enough it did, I changed my diet to be more metabolically efficient. It really aligned with how I look at food for fuel now, instead of some having to be some pleasurable experience. Good things were starting to happen. It might have been while I was training for my first Ironman that I started to really believe in myself. There is something to be said that changes you when you start physically going farther than you thought you could.
When you realize there is good in you, you start to see the good around you as well. Then good things start to happen TO you. It starts with realizing that there is good in you. You can hear it from all the people in the world, but if you don’t believe it, it won’t mean a thing to you. Why is that? Because you’re so blinded by disbelief that you can’t see it. As a friend says “fantasy land” I had that frame of mind as well at one time. We call it fantasy land because we are so blinded by our ways that we decided that we can’t accept it another way. It’s not a fantasy land at all. We see it all around us in every day life. Facebook is really big with this we see a wilderness picture with a nice saying on it, then a few thousand likes. What we need is a believe button, how many people believe this? Embrace your faults, be kind to yourself, be positive, the list goes on and on. It’s POSSIBLE, for you to love yourself and NOT be seen as a narcissist or self-centered. It’s NOT bad to love yourself. All of a sudden more weight started to come off more as I stopped fixating on what I ate to what the experts where saying, and I ate according to what I felt was right for me (#metabolic efficiency). Just so you know I just ate 2 whoopee pie’s from last night all at once (yes I enjoy food at times). My training started to get better and better. I finished my 2nd Ironman slower than my first and with an injury. I didn’t beat myself up for it, I didn’t look at what I didn’t do, I didn’t have that negative mindset through the entire race. There was no voice that was saying quit, you can’t do this.
Then last month I was surprised to find out that Base Performance had chosen my Ironman Louisville finisher photo to be used in their ad in Triathlete Magazine (pictured upper right). It wasn’t till I was writing this blog post that it came to me. I DID achieve greatness that day. I shed some of the demons that really plagued me through training, through racing, through weight loss, through diet missteps. The ad is for Base Performance products, but for me it’s something completely different. It’s the defining moment to date for all the blood, sweat, tears, and mental fights I’ve had with myself to overcome my own hurdles. That picture and phrase together, show me that no matter what comes my way, I will over come it. It might not be easy, I might fail a few times, but I’m going to overcome it. I just found out that they are going to be using the same ad in next months magazine as well!
As several people have told me, and I believe them now. You can tell by your smile that you’re a great person. The picture in the lower right that I’m using for my book and I use for my health coach site (www.chrisholleyhealthcoach.com) really show that I am happy with myself, I don’t obsess over the negative around me, I look at the positive around me, and that I care about people’s health.
I wasn’t originally planning to do this race, I was originally planning on doing Ironman Canada. Thanks to some stupid choices earlier in my life (DUI) I wasn’t able to really gain access into the country of Canada so I transferred to Louisville. I didn’t read any race reports for the race and didn’t really do any race surveillance either. My thought process was to have fun, I’m not a Kona qualifier and I really just wanted to enjoy the destination (that’s why it’s called a destination race right?). So my plan was to go out there on Wednesday to settle in, and then Thursday take a trip down to Hopkinsville (3 hour ride south) to visit my dad’s grave for the first time (I hadn’t seen him since 2000) and last spoke to him 7-8 days before he passed. Then have Friday/Saturday to focus on the race. Corine flew in Thursday so we got to handle the personal trip and meet one of my dad’s best friends while I was down there. Kentucky does have some of the best scenery in the country and the road trip was a blast.
Louisville really was a great host city in my opinion. The village was right next to transition on the waterfront close to parking, places to eat, and plenty of distilleries to sample some bourbon. We stayed in an amazing Airbnb condo with a full kitchen, washer and dryer, and a king size bed. All new Ironman events I do I’m going Airbnb for this reason. Building up to the race several of the athletes (who stress out about everything) were making a big fuss about the naturally occurring toxic algae in the river and how they might cancel the swim. I paid no attention to it for a few reasons, first it was 2 months before the race and second it’s something we cannot control, so why worry about it. It’s a river it’s not going to look like a swimming pool so please just get over it. The bike I knew was going to be out in the countryside which is what I really looked forward to, and the run in town well… it’s in town.
By now I’ve been really metabolically efficient thanks to my metabolic coach Jessica at Baxter Performance. She put together my nutrition for the day. Eggs, bacon, and a sweet potato 3 hours before the race start #runonbacon followed by the UCAN 30 minutes before the race and I’m good. The drive down to the transition was all of about 10 minutes and it was 45 degree’s outside. In transition we got to see the final finishers from Kona coming across the finish line and hearing Mike say “You’re an Ironman” was a good moral boost for the first timers. The swim is a point-to-point swim so we had to walk down to the docks which were about a mile away. I could feel the excitement building from everyone as we got our wetsuits on and started forming the line. It’s a rolling start so everyone line’s up on a first come first serve basis. Well I kind of just cut in and stood my ground (everyone was looking the other way and talking) but no one even noticed it. I just was not going to have to wait 30-40 minutes to get in the water. As we shuffled down the start shoot some people started to get nervous while others including myself were calm, collected, and ready to go. Finally it was go time, the cannon went off “BOOM” and we were like penguins getting into the water.
Once we got to the dock we could jump in the water, so once I turned the corner I jumped in and started swimming. You could see the fog coming off the river which made for an eerie yet calming swim. Unlike IMAZ where it was a washing machine the entire swim I stuck towards the right side of the shore and gradually moved to the left almost in an arch to the turn around. Being able to sight and see the shoreline with all the tree’s was actually pretty darn cool in my opinion. At the turn around we got a big clearing and you could really see the Ohio River open up and get an interesting view from the water line. Barge’s on the island stowed there, large boats on the other side of the island, and the bridges off in the distance. There wasn’t much of a current that morning which I didn’t mind (I was having fun!). We swam pretty far off shore once we passed the island and made our way under the 3 bridges to the swim out which didn’t scare me in the least bit, but the buoy’s seemed so far from each other it was hard to spot them. Got to the swim exit which is a set of stairs and the volunteer’s did a great job of trying to help everyone up. The run to transition is pretty awesome to since you run up the ramp then over another smaller bridge with spectators on both sides so close. I gave a few hi-five’s to some kids and had no clue what my time was. As I hit the tent my buddy Jeff who was there volunteering helped me out and got me on my way. Thanks Jeff!
It was cold so I had on my cycling jersey and a pair of tube socks for arm warmers, and going out it was pretty flat with little wind. The ride along out of town was great with all the big houses and riverfront scenery. People out in their drive ways cheering you on as you wiz by. Now I had done this course on the computrainer so I thought I had a pretty good feeling about it…. WRONG. Once you’re out of town it starts to be a roller coaster of rolling hills… up and down, shifting up and down, out of saddle, in saddle of sorts. I tried my best to keep my power in my 70-75% FTP range for everything but on the climbs it just wasn’t happening. The ride through La Grange was awesome… they had the streets lined with the residents cheering and even in some of the remote spots of the bike loop there were people out on their lawns cheering you on… it was great. Made it through the 1st loop no problems, hit my special needs for my nutrition refills and this time the winds started to pick up a bit which made of the climbing not so fun. I saw a lot of people walking up some of the sharp inclines, but again I just did my best to stay calm and relaxed and not push myself as I realized I did on the first loop. I really took in a lot of the scenery here and enjoy a place that if I didn’t do this race I would have never ever have gone to. I wanted to have a great run since it’s been my weakness. I stopped to use the bathroom a few times since I refuse to pee on my bike… again I’m not qualifying for Kona so if I spend an extra 45 seconds-1 minute going pee so be it. Rolling into town the energy was off the charts it was a great pick me up. I grabbed my run bag and got changed. Took some time to get a breather and some sunscreen and I was on my way out to the run.
Here I am, the final leg of the Ironman distance. Energy levels are great, right hip was starting to bug me a bit, but kept going nice and slow. Start out slow for the first couple miles and settle into your pace. First 6 miles was cruising 11:00 min miles (stick to my metabolic pace 10:30-11:00) min miles and you’ll get through it in no time. I hit my UCAN at the 30 min mark and hitting my Base Performance Electrolyte Salt ever mile. You run along one of the main streets, 3rd I think it was and the houses up and down the streets were huge! Spectators on both sides clapping and cheering you on. Mile 6 had the Base Tent with some of my Basemates which cheered me on. My girl was there cheering for me and we chitchatted for a bit while I was jogging it out. I felt really good at this point I was astonished… but then around mile 7 my right hip totally locked up and I fell face first on the ground. Might have said some choice words and the medic’s who happened to be riding on their bikes helped get me to my feet and made sure that nothing was broken and I was ok. Told them what was happening and they gave me 3 choices. 1.) walk and deal with the pain. 2.) run and deal with the pain and risk tearing muscles. 3.) They can pull me off the course. Well, I didn’t come to Louisville, see my dad’s grave, and I for sure wanted my finishers jacket. So I figured I’ll just shuffle it out for a few miles and see were it goes. Well after the turn around and some of the slight down hills the hip started to throb more and more and around mile 12/13 I seriously thought about quitting. Mile’s 9-12 I had let some of that negative self-talk in about how I was supposed to be running this instead of walking this. Started to question if this distance was even right for me. As I crossed the mile 13 sign on the verge of saying F this… my hip wasn’t feeling right, I was in a dark place mentally there was this DJ guy blaring some 80’s song that made me start laughing He yelled out… “Yeah Christopher, you’re going to be an Ironman today with that laugh… keep it up buddy you’re doing great.” It helped get me back on the positive side of things and we made a left turn and right turn with streets lined with people. I could see the finish line, the red carpet, the crowd cheering. It was what I needed to get my head back in the game/race. You’re right up on that carpet before you start the 2nd loop, I could taste the finish, I could see myself getting to it. I had less than 13 miles to go, 3 hours of misery and I can do this. I hit my special needs and got my hoodie and 2nd bottle of UCAN… Although not much need for it now, and I stretched and started on my 2nd lap. By this time some of the people were just starting the first loop and I cheered them on as some of them passed me. At this point it was all about supporting others and enjoying the experience. Unlike IMAZ where I felt like total crap from the stomach issue’s I felt great. I found that cheering for others as they passed going in on the finish or starting the 2nd loop was fun. Hit the Base Tent again which had some great beats and the girl and I talked a bit more as I was walking towards the turn around. Slowly chipping away at the miles I could feel the hip kind of numbing out a bit so I picked up the pace more and shuffled here and there before it started to hurt again. Mile 22-23 the girl and I talked and she gave me some pick me up’s and agreed that I’d see her at the finish. Three more miles to go, it’s around 8:45PM I totally got this. Mile 25 to 26 seemed like an eternity.. by this time some of the streets were clear of spectators but there were still plenty of people out there cheering you on when it was dark and starting to get cold. I made that left turn followed by the right and the finish line was in site.. the streets were lined with people so much that it was a good .2 miles of solid crown 8-12 people deep. I picked up to a run and tried to keep plenty of space from people so that I wasn’t in a crowd coming across the finish line. Just like that I was a 2 x Ironman finisher.
~Race Finish: 14:21:57
After crossing the line (it was much more memorable this time than from IMAZ) a volunteer pretty much had me and got all my stuff that I wanted. The girl found me and we chatted and I was a 2 x Ironman finisher. She did a great job of making sure I was ok and taken care of… she even went back and got my hoodie that I had ditched cause I wanted it. Followed by a “DO NOT go passed the Chipotle sign”. The woman who volunteered left me right at the end of the finisher area and let us know where to get the coveted Ironman finishers pizza. After the girl returned we got some pizza and some brownies. Couple days before I got the finish and fly package from TriBike Transport so I didn’t have to pick up my bike or any of my gear bags. The following day my super Sherpa got up early and got my finishers jacket for me, so that I could wake up to it.
This really turned out to be a great race all around and I had a blast. The city of Louisville was great, especially the Wild Egg’s Bananas Foster Waffle the day after. I highly recommend this race to anyone who wants a bit of a challenge on the bike, and a kick back run. It was a little more than a race trip since I took a road trip down to see where my dad was buried, we had some words and I was on my way. None of this would have been possible without the great support system I have
First and foremost, sorry it’s taken me so long to blog. I had a change of work laptop that I used to publish everything and the app that I used didn’t update with Windows 10 so I’ve had to try and find other ways, since I hadn’t used the website to write a post before. Turns out, that it’s not that bad. So since my last post with metabolic efficiency I’ve dropped down to 213lbs. Then I remembered I signed up for Clydesdale at the Nautica Malibu Triathlon, so I had to actually put on some weight… funny I know. Friday at packet pickup if they would have weighed me I would have been right at 225-227lbs since that’s what I weighed in at in the morning. They didn’t and after the race I was probably 218-220lbs. It’s the very last race I’ll race Clydesdale, or so it better be.
So this was an important race for me mentally, the other short races that I kind of laid the expectation that I need to be a podium finisher failed… I was 4th and 5th at them. I thought to myself… great I’m not the fastest fat guy anymore. It was to be expected though. When you train for Ironman distance events you lose a lot of that top end speed and the sacrifice of endurance. So while I couldn’t go as fast as they could in the sprint… I could certainly out swim, bike, and run them in an Ironman. Anyways the Clydesdale’s here was a huge field for us, there was 21 of us. I beat the 2nd place guy by seconds time wise… I saw him pass me on the run around mile 2… he was already hurting and I cruising in my Zone 3 HR while trying to keep cool. With the sun just beating down on me, I couldn’t risk injury or blowing up to early so I slowly reeled him in, and around mile 4.5 I finally passed him for good. Not to mention I wasn’t really getting passed by anyone on the run other than some of the top females. It was great to be able to run and not get passed by everyone like I had grown accustomed to. It was also a great confidence booster for Ironman Louisville which is right around the corner. Three weeks out and I’m feeling really good about it.
On the other non-triathlon racing side of life school has been crazy. Between my Health & Wellness Coaching Class, Advanced Nutrition Class, and trying to finish up my Ironman University Test it’s been a mental challenge. The upside is that I’m helping people achieve their goals, and slowly setting both my Health & Wellness Coaching and Endurance Coaching business. More to come as I get close to Ironman Louisville and I get this website authoring squared away.
So I started this whole Metabolic Efficiency thing at 243lbs back on July 21st and since then I’m down to 226lbs. I knew the basics to it, burn more fat for fuel instead of carbohydrate. I knew that it didn’t include counting calories. I knew that it included the whole low-carb high fat diet. I had my doubts about it, because it went against everything that you learn from personal training and in terms of fueling the body during long endurance sports. I also know that 1 gram of fat equals 9 calories of energy and 1 gram of carbohydrate gives you 4. So you have more than 2 times the amount of energy in fat then carbohydrate. However, your bodies preferred method of energy is carbohydrate.
So how am I going to get my body to burn more fat and less carbs… well decrease the carbs and increase the fats! Been doing this for 2 weeks now, and surprisingly I’m eating more spinach, squash, zucchini, and kale then I ever have before. I’m eating more fish (I try not to eat beef, pork, or chicken), and I’ve reintroduced actually bacon and butter back into my diet! Little did I know that even though I’m eating tons of greens/carbs I never really knew how low value of carbs they were and filling. Stuffing my face with spinach and kale (about 2-4 ounces) every day is hard work. You can see from my MFP (My Fitness Pal) screenshot that I eat… a lot.
In doing so, I’ve actually started to become accustom to finding that I’m enjoying cooking more, and looking at more veggies, and the side effect is little to no sugar! So you can see that even with 80 grams of carbs I’m still getting most of my energy from “healthy” fat sources. You can see on there avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, and butter. Now keep in mind yes I’m under my calorie goal by MFP… I don’t count calories so I couldn’t care less about it.
So what about my performance during my workouts? Let’s just say that I can go 2 hours without needing anything besides maybe water and electrolyte salts on a hot day. How do I know this? Well I got a Metabolic Efficiency Profile test does that tells me what % fat vs carbohydrate I’m burning at various intensities. I now know that if my heart rate is cruising at 151 (Z2) I’m burning roughly 75% of my calories from fat… and with 2000 calories of stored carbohydrate I’m going to go for a while. If my HR is racing at 155 then I’m reaching that 50% cross over area where I’m getting half my energy from fat and from stored carbs. So since I’m a slow runner I can now start increasing my effort while trying to maximize my fat burning engine so I don’t need to worry about all those sugar based drinks and gu’s out there that could cause all those wonderful GI issues. So what do I take on those long training days that are 2+ hours? I hate Generation UCAN, which is a super starch designed not to spike your insulin levels so you can keep burning fat, and not sugar. Yeah it can get a bit goopy but so far, it’s working out great!
So now that the science behind it is out of the way, I’m 2 weeks into it. I haven’t felt any energy crashes. I raced Solana Beach Triathlon on nothing but water and felt great the entire time. Took 4th in my division, I’m ok with that cause once again I’ve been training for an Ironman, not a Sprint. I’m down almost 14lbs, mostly fat. I’m sitting at approximately 18% BF and I’m feeling like things are falling into place. Putting on some muscle to get some power back on the bike and I’ve never really ran at this weight for a long time so I’m going to be curious to see how my body adapts to being not just lighter but leaner.
Crossing the finish line of what is one of the most iconic triathlons in the world. I did it, I completed it, I escaped from Alcatraz. There is a certain allure about doing this race around the triathlon world that I exists in. I was told it’s a bucket list race and that everyone should try it. It’s a lottery style entry with 2 drawings. The first drawing for obvious reasons, but the second drawing is for the slots that the weren’t claimed by the first wave of people. So you really have 2 shots of getting in this race. Well I signed up for the lottery with ZERO thought about actually getting in. I’m pretty sure I was peer-pressured into it. Needless to say I didn’t make the first round but I did make the second round. You jump off a boat in San Francisco Bay right next to Alcatraz Island and swim to the shore by the Marina Green. This water is notorious for being cold and choppy and having a hell of a current that can sweep you towards the Golden Gate. Then you bike 18 miles through the Presidio and Golden Gate Park. It’s a very technical course with a lot of ups and downs and sharp turns. Then run is along the same course as the bike down to a beach and then up the notorious “Sand Ladder” shown to the left. Then it’s a run back down and through a long chute with lots of spectators to finish things off. The weather also plays a huge role in how this race goes as well. You didn’t know what you were going to get till race morning.
Pre-Race: I got into town Saturday morning before the race. I jumped a 7AM flight and landed at 8:30AM. After the public transportation and Uber to the hotel it was 10:30 so I had them drop me off at the expo. The line for packet pickup was incredible and was wrapped around for 2+ hours. There was a lot of excitement in the air as I ended up talking to several athletes and found my friends from San Diego and met some new Fil Am Tri Club members. I didn’t really pay much attention to the athlete briefing and in retrospect I didn’t really need to. There has been such a flood of information flowing through me from a lot of sources to where I felt really prepared. The day though was just go go go and I didn’t really have time to relax as much as I had liked to. Either way I felt really prepared for this race and was in bed by 9AM with a 3:30AM wake up time. We weren’t allowed to rack our bikes the night before so I followed my buddy Kevin and his friend to the transition time. We had to be on the shuttle to the boat by 5:00AM so we left the hotel at 4:15AM. Thankfully my girl made me my PB&Banana Bagel, and out the door I went. It was COLD that early, but once we hit transition there was a lot of excitement in the air as I got my transition setup. I was right at the end which was even better. I found Kevin who was wrapping up his transition and we got on the shuttle to the boat.
The Swim (35:50): At 6:35 the boat launched and we were on our way. There was no turning back. It was a one way trip for 2000 triathletes. The excitement on the boat was amazing and there was a lot of nervous swimmers out there as well who seemed really anxious. I felt confident, I had a game plan. Jump off the boat on the far left or to the far right and then sight for the 2 ugly apartment buildings and then follow the shore line. I figured worst thing that happens is that I undershoot the exit and swim down current to it. By 7AM I had my wetsuit on completely and was pouring water in it to get the water layer present and warmed up for the jump into the 60 degree water. I had my booties on, and I was outside on the deck warming up with Andy Potts who I’d met the day before. We wished each other a great race and then before I knew it, it was time for the National Anthem. The announcer then called the time it was 7:25 and the pro’s lined up first, the doors were open. The water temp was 60 degree’s with a current of 6 knots going towards the ocean, with minimal chop. The horn goes off and the pro’s jump off but then everyone jumped right behind them. There was no pause and I approached the right side and jumped in the water. It was a total rush. I could see the lead boat lights and I figured that now I’d just sight off that and keep it dead ahead of me. This worked the entire time till my goggles fogged up on me. After stopping and clearing them I was probably 1/2 a mile off shore and I cut the inside to swim right into the exit exactly as planned. I exited the water and then ran to the shoes I planned to run back to transition in.
The Bike (1:06:45): I spent 10:30 in T1 (which included the 800M run back to the T1 area. I really wanted to take my time and just enjoy the race experience. This was after all probably the only time I’m ever going to do the race. Once on the bike I knew what was coming, 2 miles of flat and then the climbs. I took the course very conservatively. Some of the down hills you could hear people slamming their breaks and you could smell brake pads in the air. I saw one person being taken away in an ambulance who appeared to go over the handle bars. The road conditions weren’t all that great either, so I felt I made the right choice to really play it safe and not over do it. I had my Base Performance Rocket Fuel (Base Aminos, Base Hydro, Base Electrolyte Salts, and Karbolyn) and a bottle of water for nutrition on the bike. I averaged 16.2 MPH on the road bike which I’m ok with. It was a technical course and crowded. Along the course you could see the fog just pouring in, and moving. It was thick as you can see from the picture. As I approached the bike in, I told myself I’m 2/3rds the way done. I got this and to enjoy the run. There are a lot of climbs, so take it easy and just enjoy the experience.
The Run (1:20:36): I spent 4 mins in T2 again just taking my time. By this time the crowd was really big and cheering for everyone coming in and going out of transition. I saw my girl on the way out, gave her a high five and went on my merry way. I was cruising a nice 10:30 min mile pace which for me, I’m happy with. Been dealing with some foot issue’s that limited my running but I also knew that the climbs were coming so I didn’t want to push it either. I hit the first hill and I just kept telling myself short steps and look ahead. Just like my coach told me. Outside of having to walk up some stairs because it was single file and there were people walking up at this point. I was cruising about an 11:30 min mile uphill which I felt great still. As I was going out I saw Andy Potts and Eric Lagerstrom battling it out for first. Of course I cheered Andy on. We ran down a trail to the beach and ran on Baker Beach for while. Then around mile 5 it happened, the sand ladder. I looked up and everyone was walking it. I was going to walk it. The wood beams were covered with sand and there was just no room to run up it. Everyone who was walking up it was joking around and we were laughing and just enjoying things. Little did we know that it was being filmed, so we all put on smiles at the top. From this point it was all downhill from here. I started cruising and then at some point right around mile 5.5 I slipped on some dirt and fell down. I recovered nicely but the body got a bit banged up. I walked it out a bit to make sure there was nothing mechanically wrong with me. The knee’s moved without pain and there wasn’t any tight muscles. I walked a bit more to shake it off and once we hit the flat final 1.5 miles I just kept up a constant jog. I saw some friends just coming out on the run and cheered them on. I took some time at the aid stations to wash off some of the dirt that I was covered in (have to look good for the pictures). As I approached the chute I looked around to make sure there was no last minute sprinters and I relished the accomplishment that I just completed as I crossed the finish line. My final time was 3:17:xx but all in all I don’t care. I had a lot of fun. The race is awesome and such a rush from start to finish.
Reflecting Back: Even with my fall, there was not a bad moment I had in this race at all. It was much better than I expected and anticipated. A race that I’ve heard several people say they have done it. It was a badge of honor type race. I’ve joined the group of athletes who have escaped from Alcatraz. I watched video on the swim, I’ve swam the distance before. My girl and I went out on a boat tour the day after the race and I looked at the swim from above the water verses being inside it. It makes the race feel like an even better accomplishment. It’s one thing to swim down here in San Diego where the water’s pretty darn clear and warm. It’s another to jump off a perfectly good boat into San Francisco Bay next to Alcatraz and swim to short. It wasn’t more than 4 years ago that I would have told myself I was insane to even attempt it, never the less complete the damn thing.
Well, here we are at the end of our shift. We all volunteered to be swim handlers at the 2015 Oceanside 70.3 Half Ironman. I wanted to race this race but I missed the signup, so I went with St. George instead. The next best thing to racing is volunteering. It’s my chance to give back to the sport and to the racers. In my early days of racing I never really paid much attention to volunteers, in fact I really didn’t care about them. I paid my money and most of the time I was out there suffering just trying to finish. Then after my first volunteer gig as a swim buddy I started to really take notice and start thanking them as I’m running or biking. I’m usually a swim buddy and out there swimming with the slower swimmers. At Ironman events that’s not allowed, so I took the next best thing. Making sure everyone gets in and out of the water safely.
Race DayHanging out with TCSD before reporting.
The best part of being in the water is that you have access to transition and you don’t have to be down at the entry/exit till 20-30 minutes before the pro’s start. So I was able to wander around T1/2 and talk with some friends and give some final words of encouragement to other first timers I knew racing. Before I knew it, it was time for me to head down to the swim entry/exit. I really wasn’t expecting anything since when I’m running out of the water I don’t take any assistance and I’m off down to transition. However, I got to talk to some of the pro men and women before they got into the water and they thanked me for volunteering. Andy Potts is a nice guy on top of being fast in the water, and Jesse Thomas is flat out funny before the swim. I couldn’t recognize the women with their goggles on already and caps, but that’s ok. The gun went off and the mass flow of racers entered the water in waves in what seemed 3 minutes apart. All the swim handlers cheering them on as they marched towards the water. They even had the seals to cheer them on and provide some entertainment while they made their way to the start line. About 22 minutes after the start the pro men started to come in and I had to go over to the exit for safety reasons.
As the pro’s came in the mass of age groupers were not far behind. At about 45 minutes after the start it was madness. I was assisting swimmers up and unzipping wetsuits. I pulled up several of my friends swimming and cheered them along the run. Then I felt someone grab my hand and as I turned and looked at her she said, “I have no legs, will you help me?” I got down and picked her up and carried her to her chair that was waiting on the ramp with her legs. She was an amputee racing with CAF. Everyone was clapping for her and she was smiling. I was moved and inspired to be sharing her moment with her. Every day I listen to people complain about how bad of a day they had or are having, but here is a woman with no legs out there swimming and enjoying the simple things that we often take for granted. It was an honor and privilege for me to assist her. In a moment that seemed like it took 20 minutes had only taken a couple and I was back to action holding up swimmers who couldn’t find their land legs after being in the water for so long. As the slower swimmers started coming in we started seeing a lot of people disoriented so we spent some time walking up the ramp with them till they found their land legs and knew what was going on. I saw an older man who waved me over and I grabbed his hand. He really grabbed on strong and started to shake as I pulled him up and he stood up. He looked at me and said “I did it, I didn’t think I’d make it, but I did it!” I said “Congratulations, the hard part is done right!” We both laughed but when he took off his goggles he had tears and a smile ear to ear. He gave me a big hug and said thank you for being here, and said “I did it” one last time as he went up the ramp. I started to get teary eyed. (I’m starting to get teary eyed just writing this).
As less and less swimmers came in we know the swimmers coming in now were at risk of not being able to continue. Then the race official appeared and there were 3 swimmers who weren’t allowed to continue. It was a little heartbreaking to see. Some of those swimmers were in the water well over 1 hour and 10 minutes. Then the floatilla of boats, SUPs, and wave runners came towards the dock. It was the last swimmer in, and everyone gave him a cheering welcome back. We all knew he wasn’t going to make the cut off but he at least finished the swim which is a great achievement.
As I was helping him up since he couldn’t stand on his own we got to the race official and I heard the official give the DNF speech. It’s not one that I ever plan to hear for not making a cut off. I really hope he comes back next year and finishes the entire race. I could feel how deflated he got after receiving the news. Once all the swimmers were out we got the dock all ready to go for use again and I was off to the TCSD and FilAmTri tents to cheer on the racers. All in all for the day I walked/ran over 12 miles and cheering is a workout on it’s own. I was exhausted all evening. I tried to get my 8 mile run in but got 2 miles before I was done. I was sleeping by 8:30PM… ZZZZZzzzzzz
Well, 2014 was a blast of the year. For the most part I’m 2 years into my lifestyle change from a fat bar hopper to a competitive triathlete. I’ve been able to inspire those around me to achieve what they didn’t they could. Been dating a great gal, and I finished my first ever Ironman. I’ve been able to keep the weight off for the most part, I did put some back on after the Ironman and holiday season. That’s how it goes though when you’re training 16-20 hours a week and eating 6-8K calories a day to almost nothing for a month.
So what do I have in store for 2015? Well, I’m agreeing to another race a month of some form. So that mean’s that once a month I’ll be doing anything from a 5K to an Ironman. Swim, Bike, or Run race of some type. I’ve got my first half Ironman in St. George, UT on May 2nd and a full Ironman 140.6 in Louisville, KY on October 11th. On top of that I’m the proud Ambassador of SunRype! SunRype is a fruit drink and snack company that uses 100% fruits and juice in their products. I’m super excited to represent them in 2015 and hopefully longer.
Weight goal wise I’ve slacked a bit. I’m not under that 220lb mark that I wanted to so this year, so I’ll be trying to get under that mark. I’ve had quite a few people talk to me about becoming a life coach which I’m looking into along with finally getting my personal training certification. Then look into what I need to do to become a life coach and possible pursue it a bit more when I’m not on my day job.
Here it is my race report. First I’d like to thank my coach Julie Dunkle and the group that I trained with. Without you girls it would not have been as much fun. Also want to thank my parents for supporting me through all this and my kid sister Jill who was my sherpa and handled a lot of stuff for me on race day.
Arriving in Tempe on Thursday allowed me to handle a lot of the athlete requirements before everyone got into town. This helped keep a lot of pressure off of me. Saturday was gear check day for my bike and my gear bags which helped even more come race morning.
Thankfully I got to bed early and I slept like a rock! Woke up and ate 3 peanut butter and banana sandwiches while sipping some water. Got the rest of my special needs bags set to go went through my race checklist and once everything was good my sister and I went down to the race venue. It opened at 5AM and we were there around 5:15AM. Once down there I had to get my nutrition into my bike and everything all set that I couldn’t leave overnight. Got my special needs bags dropped off, dropped my friends off at the pool, and completely forgot about putting my salt sticks into my bike as well putting on my HR monitor. Said good bye to the kid sister and got in line for the swim start.
I positioned myself up towards the front to avoid having to swim over people. As I treaded water and waited for the gun to go off I was anxious to get started. The excitement in the air was astonishing. As the cannon (not a gun or horn) went off the washing mashing began and for me it didn’t stop till I got out of the water. I swam a 1:10 which I was pretty disgusted with but I also wasn’t swimming as fast as I could. I held back some because I had a 112 mile bike and a marathon to do. So I wanted to conserve some energy seeing as though I’d never gone so far in my life. I settled into a good rhythm away from some people and just kept swimming. The turns got a bit crowded but nothing crazy. On the return there was some waves pushing from the rear which helped and the sun was not in our eyes anymore. I didn’t wear my Garmin this time around I kept it on my bike. I didn’t really have any issue’s exiting the water but once I was out finding a wetsuit stripper that was available was a bit interesting. Finally after that was done I trotted into the transition tent.
I was fully expecting to get a 5 hour ride with at least 20 MPH average here. I jumped on the bike feeling great It wasn’t till we got to a clearing that I had felt the wind gusts and knew it was going to be a long day… Once I turned onto the Bee Line Hwy it was 11 miles of straight headwinds all the way out and then tailwind all the way back. I didn’t have my HR strap on but I don’t use HR when riding since I have my Power2Max Power Meter. I kept my watts under 214 to keep me in Zone 2. Even going downhill I didn’t want to hammer it out too fast and not have any legs to battle the headwind going back. With each successive loop the winds kept getting stronger and stronger eventually slowing me down to 8MPH at some points. During the bike I also had 4 damn flats… 4 of them. As that 5th hour ticked away I just kept riding to get to the run. My nutrition was dead on (could have used more salt sticks) but I felt great getting off the bike and ready to hit the run. The change to the speedfill bottle on the frame and the aerobar bottle holder worked out great! I kept my APX in the bottle and then the water bottles from the aid stations in the aerobar holster.
My plan here was to run 4 minutes and walk 1 minute all at an easy pace for the first loop and then crank out some more intensity. Grabbed some water at the first aid station along with Gu Chomps (Not sure I should have). Then ran into Stuart from the Tri Club and we chit chatted and both were along the same run/walk plan. We were cruising a nice 11 min mile pace which I was OK with. At the 2nd aid station I took some cola (I wanted a caffeine pick up after the head winds. Well the cola was not flat by any means and right around mile 3 I started to feel gassy… very gassy. I was burping hoping it was just gas and then you have that ah-ha moment where as they say “Don’t trust a fart”. I told John and Stuart that I’d catch up to them. I spent the next 10 minutes or so in that porta-john. Then it seemed I would repeat that for the next 10 miles except only taking in water, pretzels and grapes. I didn’t know if that combination would help but in my mind my thought process was like this. Pretzels to help absorb any carbonation, water to help dilute the cola more, and grapes for the sugars. I don’t know if it was the “best” thing but for me it worked. I started to feel human again around mile 12 and I was off to run/walking with enjoyment (Yes I said enjoyment). I saw my parents when I started the 2nd lap and asked where some others were and they said they are out there running. I was relieved they made the bike cut-off. I stopped at my special needs bag and changed out my shoes (I shouldn’t have done this either). Why did I change out my shoes when the one’s I was wearing seemed perfectly ok. Either way I started running again with my 4/1 ratio. Around mile 16 I was in a daze of things tunnel vision to just make it to the far turn around and that’s when I asked a volunteer for some water and instead she gave me perform. Well, after that perform went down the hatch in about 15-20 seconds it was coming back up along with everything else in my stomach. I took some water and tried to jog it out a bit which was fine for a bit and ended up puking a couple more times. Finally at the mile 20 or so turn around I had been feeling really good. Then my coach Julie started running with me for a bit and we had a chit chat. She asked if I was alright and I said not really. Explained the stomach stuff to her. She said I was going to make it, even if I ended up walking the rest of the way I was going to make it. By this time by feet were really starting to hurt (damn shoes, I knew it was the shoes). I should have never changed them out. I hit mile 24 and I could hear the finish line.
At mile 24 once I started to hear everyone being called an Ironman everything kind of hit me. I really was going to make it, I really was going to become an Ironman. I didn’t care about the time I was going to make it. I started thinking about how many people supported me through this. How I wish my father could have been alive to find out that his oldest son had turned his life around from a heavy drinker to an Ironman and an inspiration. I wished my grandparents were still around as well. Finally as I turned the final corner down the finish chute I remember seeing the lights. I remember seeing all the hands wanting hi-fives. I remember hearing “Christopher Holley, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN”. I couldn’t tell you my emotions at that moment. I can’t tell you what else I heard. I can’t even tell you at what point I got my medal. I don’t even remember taking the finisher picture. I remember seeing Rhonda at some point which surprised me that she made it out. I remember my parents meeting her and not much else after that.
My parents went back to the hotel they were tired, I could tell by their smiles that I made them proud. I still had to watch the rest of Team Dunkle come in. I heard some of the ladies and Henry finish but I couldn’t make it through everything in time to cheer them on going down the chute. Nicole had finished as well but couldn’t move fast enough either. Finally I made my way around everyone to the inside turn of the finish shoot. As the final hour approached more and more of the ladies from Team Dunkle finished. They had did it. My certain someone had finished and I was so proud. Finally Erika crossed the finish line all smiles. She was soo excited she ran down the far side of the chute away from her dad and she hi-fived every single hand she could. We all did it, we all become an Ironman that day.
I still can’t believe it’s over just like that. It was a 5 month journey that brought me to places that I’d never been both physically and mentally. As I look back at the race day while writing this. I had a LOT of fun. At the end of the day that’s what being an athlete is all about… FUN.