As the year has gone by I’ve become a mentor to Rhonda guiding her way into triathlon and becoming a triathlete. She will be the first one to tell you that is hasn’t been easy and she’s even hated me several times. What started out as me just wanting to be there for questions has turned into something more than either of us expected. One day Rhonda wanted me to write about what it was like to mentor her. I was planning on doing it so here is our story and what it was like for me.
I met Rhonda through her Facebook page Living Instead of Existing. I found her story of weight loss truly inspirational and I found myself wanting to follow her journey. I didn’t know she lived in San Diego at the time, and I certainly didn’t know she had wanted to do a triathlon. As I was wrapping up my running and triathlon season myself I noticed she posted about wanting to do a triathlon. I felt compelled to be a support resource for her. She wanted to do the Mission Bay Triathlon in October. She had plenty of time to train for it and since triathlon has helped me with weight loss and fitness I knew she could do it.
See to the outside people triathlon can be intimidating. When you hear the word triathlon the first thing that typically comes to mind is the Ironman World Championship held in Kona, HI. They immediately think thin people with 5% body fat that can do super human things. No there are shorter triathlons out there and sprints are the shortest held around the nation with few super-sprints available. As I got into triathlon as a beginner I wanted to make it my way of giving back to a sport that helped me find where I belong and helping beginners is it.
One day I was looking at her workouts and I sent her a message I think that was along the lines of… You can do a triathlon in May. At first she didn’t think she could (little did she know that she could and she would find that she could do a lot more than she “thought” she could). In March though I met her in person at the Hot Chocolate 5K while I was doing the 15K. Here before me was this probably 5’2” woman who could barely say a word to me. I didn’t think I was too intimidating but come to find out that’s just how she is. She still to this day doesn’t speak many words to me in person. We do 99.9% of our talking through Facebook. It doesn’t bother me one bit. It can be challenging at times getting the full meaning of things but if that’s what is easiest for her I’m not going to force it. Finally the Sprint Sprint was here and she got out there and did her first triathlon 5 months early. I was doing a relay at the same time as I do now with some of the shorter triathlons and I was able to cheer her on. She caught the bug and before I knew it I was mentoring her. Since that first race she has improved in every race getting a 3rd place in the San Diego International Triathlon and 2nd place in the Mission Bay Triathlon Aquabike.
During that time it wasn’t always easy. She always had questions about everything which is good. She also had to deal with self doubt in which I had to promptly give her a pep talk that wasn’t always nice but she needed to hear it. See I wasn’t just trying to mentor someone into become a triathlete. It had blossomed into showing her that she is capable of so much more than she though. She just needed someone to believe in her and keep her from entering that comfort zone that she had been in for so long. In the long run I knew it would pay off and when I look at how far she’s come in just 1 year it’s nothing short of amazing. She’s now a brand ambassador for Pedigo E-Bikes and doing stuff she never thought she could. She’s now a triathlete, and she’s now an even bigger inspiration to many others.
That was me back in 2009 before making any type of lifestyle changes and on the party have fun train. It was a friends birthday party in Las Vegas and it was fun and a memorable trip. But this blog post isn’t about the trip or the party, it’s about the guy that you see in the picture. As some of you guys know that currently I’ve helped mentor Rhonda from Living Instead of Existing into the world of triathlon and believing that she is an athlete . I recently asked her what would she tell herself hears ago before starting her lifestyle change. So it’s only fair that I answer that same question.
First I’d wait till after November 16th and this would be my speech/lecture (I’d view it as a lecture and get defensive about it).
”Chris, you are an Ironman (Yes that race you watched on TV years ago) You’ve done it. You’re something more though. You’ve become an inspiration to many people. Quitting the party/drinking every weekend lifestyle has opened your life to more than you thought possible. It’s not going to be easy and you’ll lose some friends along the way. Don’t worry though because those negative people will be replaced a hundred fold in people who help bring out the positive in you. Be strong and be courageous cause it won’t be easy and you will doubt yourself. The rewards will be worth it though.
In 5 years you’re going to lose over 170lbs not through surgery but through true lifestyle change. You’re going to eat right, exercise, find that competitive spirit that you thought you lost back in High School, and you’re going to become a triathlete. You will find it rewarding to help others out who have dreams but don’t think they are able to do it. You’ve changed peoples lives for the better through your actions. You lead by example, and those actions inspire others around you. You’re going touch the lives of people around the nation that you’ve never met before. You’re going to tell people that you believe in them and mean it. You’re going to meet people who inspire you through their actions. You have a wild crazy adventure ride coming up so buckle up.”
Yes, that is what I would say to myself. I’m sure my old self would get defensive and rationalize every possible excuse to stay on that train track. However now I can inspire and motivate him so that they aren’t excuses any longer. On another note it’s actually really hard for me to look at that picture. On the outside I was happy but on the inside I was wasting away.
Yes you’re reading that right 100 Miles in 5 hours of moving time. I did stop to vent some frustrations with some of the drivers going around Fiesta Island. That was my training highlight of the weekend training followed by a run from Del Mar to Carlsbad with the woman I’m dating. Yes you’re reading that right I said I’m dating a woman but more on that in another blog post or maybe later in this one. The downfall of the weekend of training was my DNF at TikiSwim. I joined the San Diego YMCA and stopped my 24 Hour Fitness membership as well. 24 Hour Fitness just didn’t suit my needs anymore since I’m no longer a casual gym person. The “Y” as everyone calls it has spin classes that work with my training schedule along with a Masters program that works with my training schedule as well, so it was a no brainer.
Thursday 9/25/2014 marked the “40th Anniversary of Triathlon” and Triathlon Club of San Diego along with the San Diego Track Club put on a race in it’s honor in it’s same format of “run > bike > swim > run”. I took the day off from work cause I wanted to take part in this event. I love being a part of great experiences and this one was amazing. Got to race with some pro’s and some more triathlon icon’s. I can’t wait for the 50th! I didn’t bring my Garmin with me and I wore a loaner chip however I don’t know my time yet since they haven’t been posted and really I don’t care. The experience of Tri’ing with everyone was worth it.
So Saturday I told myself I wanted to hit the 100 Mile mark on Garmin so it could be “Official” and I circled around Fiesta Island more times than I could count. I started around 6AM and little to no traffic with very little wind and the first 50 miles felt great… Then the traffic picked up cause of an event on the far side of the island so I couldn’t get going too fast cause I just don’t trust the drivers around San Diego, they are clueless. Then around mile 70 the winds started to pickup so the long part of the island had a headwind which brought me down to about 17 MPH but at the short side I got up to 28 MPH which was great. I kept everything in Zone 2 with the occasional Z3’s then finally made the last lap to 100 and called it a day. I learned 2 very valuable lessons that day. One is that I can’t go off liquid only carbs because I can’t take them in as easy as some bonk breakers in my bento box. I found that I just didn’t need grab them as much as I should have.
Sunday started out hectic and disappointed but ended on a good note. I left for TikiSwim and there had been a fatality on the freeway which left me no time to get mentally prepared for the race. I got there with 3 minutes to spare before the race started and grabbed my packet and grabbed an old pair of goggles cause I couldn’t find the other pair in my bag. With no time to warm up just as I got to the beach the gun went off and out I swam. The surf was rough with some huge sets coming in. Some people panicked and I just kept swimming. Had this not been a race with life guards I normally stop to help them out but they were going to be fine with the on course help. However swimming out I was kicked in the face and a flow of water started to come into my left side of the goggles. I thought just my goggles were knocked down so I adjusted them and started to swim only to have to stop 5 seconds later and empty them out. That’s when I discovered that I could put my finger right through! I was only at 1/4 mile when I just said this isn’t going to work and swam back to shore. Could I have toughed it out and swam without goggles probably and my eyes would burn and pay dearly for it the next couple days. I based my choice on the facts that this was a training race and not an A race. Some people have called me a quitter for not toughing it out but those same people didn’t pay over $1000.00 an Ironman race too. Either way I was more disappointed that I couldn’t finish. Went ahead with a point to point run from Del Mar to Carlsbad. I had never done such a thing and I had my doubts about it.
Time is flying by and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have my doubts that I am ready for this. The days are slowing ticking away and my mantra lately has been “This Ironman isn’t going to train for itself buddy.” I’m biking longer than I ever have before and enjoying it. This past Saturday while I was out on a 4.5 hour bike ride it was around mile 70 where I thought to myself that man 20 miles seemed so long back when I signed up for IMAZ. Now 20 miles just seems like a warm up. Now with me really having the confidence in not blowing up on the bike I can start getting in more running as well which I’ve totally been slacking on.
I really need to break this mental barrier of running is punishment again. Today after a 75 minute spin class I went out on a 2.5 mile run and had the best times in a long time and surprisingly in the heat and humidity I felt great (Yeah I just said that). I opened up my stride a bit more but watched my cadence go from 79/80 to 76/78 but my HR instead of riding that 147 BPM line dropped to 138/140 BPM. I was lower in my Z2 and my avg times per mile dropped from a 10:30 min/mile to a 9:31 min/mile. Now I did have to walk once to stretch the hip flexor a bit but then chugged along. It kind of has me wondering now if trying to get the shorter steps and higher cadence was back firing for me since I have longer legs. I’ll monitor some of the longer runs to see what’s going on with that.
On another note yes I signed up for IM Canada as well. WTF was I think is the first thing that comes to mind but I must be honest. The course looks absolutely awesome and I’ve heard excellent peer reviews of it. So why not? This is in July so it works perfectly for my St. George 70.3 in the beginning of May. At first I didn’t think I’d like some of the longer IM training but it’s kind of growing on me in a sadistic way.
Maybe it’s been 2 weeks of hills, I’m not really sure at this point as everything is running together. There have been both physical and mental hills that have brought me up and down, but it’s all part of becoming an Ironman right? You learn to juggle the demands of your work, social, and training lifestyles as volume pick up and move you to what you once thought those limits are. Slowly as you approach them you start to feel that you get that anxious feeling in your gut and you press on. You slowly move past your previous limits and the confidence builds as you start to explorer the space you didn’t know existed.
So last Saturday I swim buddied at the San Diego Triathlon Classic. I was supposed to race in this race but after careful thought with my Ironman training it just wasn’t a good fit. Especially since I had a 105 mile ride from Solana Beach up Mt. Palomar the following day. So putting the pride aside I went and rode with this great girl who is also training for IMAZ at a slow pace for a few hours (probably not the brightest thing cause of the 105 mile ride the next day). Either way we had fun and it was great time…… I guess you might call it an Irondate! Then later that night I got my run in… again this was not a good idea. The upside was I ate a TON of carbs!
My athlete Rhonda who just did her first ever triathlon back in May finally reached the podium Saturday as well. She took 3rd in the Athena division which she earned. The Tri Classic was her A race and she even surprised herself. You can follow her journey on her Facebook page “Living Instead of Existing”. She didn’t know it at the time but I decided to stay and watch her finish and cheer her on going across that finish line. I’m proud of her her finding this new found love of not just triathlon but being competitive. As I’ve been a mentor for her the goal for this season was for her to just have fun and enjoy the sport, clearly it is. Next season will be pushing a bit more (like I haven’t done enough of that) for some possible podium spots in the Athena Masters and also increasing 1 or 2 races to Olympic distances in her preparation for a 70.3 early 2016 with possible IMAZ 2016.
So now to Sunday’s fun…it really wasn’t much fun. It sucked and it sucked a lot. Started at 6Am 1 whole hour early and I knew there would be hills and a damn mountain so I used my road bike (I think I should have kept to my tri bike). My road bike is an aluminum frame which I refer to as a tank. I’ve had that thing for almost 5 years and never once had to change a tire or tube. I put thousands of miles on it and it truly is a tank. I knew I was going to be slow and I knew it was going to be a 9+ hour ride. Yes you see that big mountain in the middle of the elevation chart that was a 7-8% grade for 11+ miles? I had to ride up it and the gearing on my road bike in it’s easiest gear was a lovely 4 MPH avg going up it. I’m not going to lie I wanted to quit going up and just go downhill. My brain was telling me to quit and just turn around but my legs just kept peddling up even as I saw friends of mine going down. I stopped and let my HR go back down since the sun was beating down on me and climbing up hill keeps me in my Z4 and Z5 for long periods of time. On these stops I made the mistake of looking at my map on my phone and talk about the longest mile.. I thought to myself man I’m going 4 MPH this is going to take me 15 damn minutes to get to the top this is just dumb and why did I do this. It was about this time that my legs wouldn’t let me turn around that I finally caught up to my buddy Marcus and I thought to myself that if he can do this than so can I. Finally made it to the top with him and another guy named Steve. We caught the girls just before they went down it was a fun quick reunion (I hated all of them at this point because they beat me and weigh half of what I do.) It was at this time where mother nature decided to shower on us.. A LOT! Yeah that wall of rain was what I went through on the way down. My friend Carrie happened to snap this picture as she was going up and I was going down. At the end of the day we all got across the finish line we got our medals we endured mother nature’s 100+ heat and flash flooding. Congratulations to everyone we made it out alive and our legs truly do hate us now.
I heard someone say that after 6 hours of straight exercising something happens to you. They are right and it’s different for everyone and for me it was interesting that it was my legs that kept me going forward and not quitting when everything that I read and listed to told me it would be my body that was telling me to quick and it would be my mind telling me to stop. I felt that urge to want to keep going, that confidence that you can do this. You can finish it. People still call me crazy and say that this is not normal behavior. I would have said the same thing 3 years ago as well. But for me this is becoming the new normal and I like it. One of the best choices I made in my life was losing weight and getting outside of my comfort zone of inside the bar.
I decided against a race report for the AFC Half Marathon. I hated the race and won’t ever do it again. Since I don’t have any nice things to say about it, I’m not going to write negatively about it either. With that said I’ve had one hell of a long training weekend. As the mileage starts ramping up for IMAZ I’m finding more and more things that I’m able to accomplish. It’s not easy and sometimes it’s painful but as they all say… it will be worth it.
This past Saturday was a planned 107 Mile ride from Mission Bay up to San Clemente but due to a late start and some breaks we turned around at the far end of Camp Pendleton which made it an 84 mile round trip bike ride with 2 friends of mine. It was the first time we’ve all been able to ride together. It’s always nice to train with friends even when you’re racing alone on the bike. I only had 1 flat which was good cause any more than that and I’d be SOL. We hit Torrey Pines around mile 71 which really helped suck the life out of me for the rest of the ride. You really do start finding what you’re made out of while you’re out there on the road. Then had a nice 1:30 hour run that Sunday. Legs were tired and didn’t want to do anything.
This last Saturday I went on a 90 mile ride with plenty of hills from the start. We left early to beat the head but I have to say when the sun is out full force it sucks. It’s good training though and I’m getting used to realizing that I’ll sweat over a gallon of water and probably an entire salt container from a fast food place. Nutrition and hydration will be my make it or break it part of IMAZ. Had a 2 hour run planned for Sunday as well which went over well. I’ll most likely be running a 10:30 pace for IMAZ which I can live with.
Monday (Labor Day) was supposed to be a rest day but I did the 85th Annual Oceanside Pier Swim. Just a 1 mile out and back around Oceanside Pier. We recently had a hurricane sweep through to the south of CA which brought plenty of surf and we got a nice taste of it during the swim. It’s always a challenge to swim in the open water but with 3-6 foot waves crashing on the way out and swell picking you up and dropping you only makes for more fun. I finished in under 26 minutes which got me a 3rd place overall in the wetsuit division.
What a weekend. I was a date for a friends High School Reunion which meant I had to go shopping. I stayed away from shopping for a while because I was kind of afraid of buying nice clothes. It was always an awkward experience for me. I’d have to go the fat guy section and piece together parts of suits that fit. I was pretty stoked that I could actually shop in the regular sized part of the store and that I actually put on a L shirt. It was a huge moral victory for me. I didn’t really realize how good I’d look in the till my sister happened to catch this candid shot of me talking to my step father. It was for the first time that I honestly felt pretty damn handsome and people weren’t just being nice by telling me. They honestly meant it.
I couldn’t say that it wasn’t without my challenges either. in 2010 I had dropped down to 246 lbs and let the success get to my head and after a snow boarding accident that kept me from working out I let myself balloon back up to over 330lbs over the next 2 years. My party lifestyle had taken over and I was unhappy with my job at the time. Everyone loved the big drunk Chris except for myself. Then in 2012 I had taken a vacation to Japan with my friend Gregg and it really hit me how big I really was. I could barely sit in the airplane seat and it hurt to squeeze into the seat. When I was at a baseball game I had to squeeze into those seats as well. Yeah I know it’s Japan and all but it looked like I was going to spill into other seats. So over the next 2 years it’s been a lot of small changes like workouts, diets, quitting the party life, getting serious about triathlons, and getting serious about my health that have all stacked up to where I am now. It’s ok to take your time work hard for your goals. It’s OK to set lofty goals and have high expectations. Change doesn’t happen over night though.
When I first decided to lose weight and get healthy back in 2009 I had no idea that 5 years later I would have dropped over 170lbs, ran in over 10 half marathons, a half Ironman, and training for a full Ironman (140.6) miles. I started small with just the 5K’s which at the time took me 50 minutes to complete and through the years my fasted 5K now has been 24 minutes. My first half marathon back in 2008 took more than 3.5 hours to finish and now it’s a little over 2 hours. It’s all those small runs that add up over time that has allowed me to get faster and stronger. Just like weight loss, it’s the consistent loss of 1-2lbs over time that add up and before you know it that 2 lbs turns into 10 lbs and that 10 lbs turns into 100lbs. The clothes slowly start to inch down from 4XL to a L. You’ll notice all those little changes in your life that transform your passions and interest. Your no longer living to work, you’re now working to live. All those small changes add up and you’re progressing with each small thing.
I also did a Transformation Tuesday picture on my athlete page since it had been a while. As I was looking through my pictures and I found it incredibly difficult to look at my fat pictures without being completed disgusted with myself. I kept asking myself why did I let myself get to that size? What on earth was I thinking? Why did I let myself get complacent with things? I thought about them all for a couple seconds and thought to myself never again. As I’m writing this out what I can see is that aside from all the small physical things adding up so did my confidence and my sense of self belief. It’s the small mental changes to that add up and build that confidence in yourself. There are so many small things working together that push you forward and progress you through your life to where you want to go and what you want to do. Enjoy them, don’t be in a rush, cherish them, share them, and most of all be PROUD of those changes.