Tag Archives: Focus

$50K to Kona in 2017.. #50k2Kona

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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.

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Believe in Yourself… ACHIEVE GREATNESS

Base ProgressionFirst 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.

 

 

 

2015 – A Look Back

It’s been a while since I last wrote and for good reason there has been a lot of things going on since I did Ironman Louisville.  Moved into a new apartment with the girlfriend, finished my IRONMAN Certified Coach certification, finished up my Advanced Nutrition Diploma, enrolled in my local community college for their nutrition program, and got signed up for my US Masters Swimming level 1 and 2 certifications.

What a year 2015 has been.  Back in January I had a general direction of the year I wanted to have and I knew there would be some choices that I had to make.  Some where easy, and some where hard, but I didn’t have any idea that I would end up where I am now.  I am ending the year as an IRONMAN Certified Coach, USMS ALTS (Adult Learn to Swim) Coach, and soon to be Holistic Health Coach.  Through my weight loss and life transformations of being a drinker to now I’ve inspired many people to take control of their own lives and that it’s possible.  I have a great girlfriend whom I love and we recently have our own place.   Now I didn’t have an exact plan for anything, but I had a nice general direction.

I lost a good friend this year Darryl and while we lost contact as I tried to get my life back on track and he was getting his life on track there I’ll always remember his laugh.  I regret losing contact with him, but sometimes things do happen and you can’t beat yourself up over them.  I had to get my life in order for me, and the important part is that each one of us is better for knowing each other.   As long as I can remember his laugh, he’ll always be around.  I also had the chance to visit my dads grave when I did Ironman Louisville and say some final thoughts to a man I didn’t really know, but felt that there was some closure to an unknown and unfinished chapter in my life.  Thankfully I don’t let things get me down, and I’m able to keep myself up and keep going.

When I look back though I can only see so many positive things that have happened to me, which has been a direct reflection of the positive things that I’ve tried to do for other people.  My mentality has always been “Lead by Example”, and so far it’s inspired more people then I could have ever imagined.  As I slowly start to build my coaching business both for health and wellness and endurance multisport the basis for everything I do is to stay positive and have faith in yourself both mentally and physically.   In the words of the late Greg Plitt “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is just enough!”

Nautica Malibu Triathlon & 3 Weeks to Ironman Louisville

12002488_10153709407493274_4471941097899110989_oFirst 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.

Metabolic Efficiency Part 2–The Weight is Coming Off!

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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.

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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.

Escape from Alcatraz–Race Report and More.

311843_200101088_XLargeCrossing 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 10299154_10155729472820192_2422600405623214181_nand 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.

311843_200089360_XLargeThe 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.

Oceanside 70.3–Volunteer Race Report!

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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 Day11068401_10205307342034859_4408981667675072733_nHanging 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.

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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).

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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.

last swimmer out

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