Ironman Journey Part 8

 

Ironman Mar del Plata 2017

“Keeping My Promises”

Upon my return from Brazil I took a well deserved vacation to distract my head and recover from my hip injury.

After several months of training the body was responding well. The preparation for an Ironman puts the body on a tremendous stress and it is very difficult to reach the end of the process without injury or with some complication. This occasion was no exception. In mid-October I began to feel some discomfort in the toes of my right foot. The experience of the years taught me to develop a certain sensitivity when injuries begin to appear. That’s how before things got worse I went to do several tests that revealed the symptomatic onset of a stress fracture. Appropriate medical decisions were quickly made to prevent the situation from getting worse. Likewise, the running loads were lowered.

I arrived at the end of the process running quite well, but with some lack of volume. However, I knew I was in good physical condition, even better than Ironman Brazil.

Mar del Plata is located on a peninsula, being very exposed to the winds. It would be just as they warned me that this race, in its first edition, would not be easy. During Ironman week the weather was very pleasant. A lot of sun but a bit of wind. Training in the sea was very difficult since the wind kept it very choppy. This would complicate things for the day of the race. It was even rumored that it could be changed to duathlon format if the conditions remained the same. Over the weekend the weather changed and rains were announced for the race. I did not question things much and I just made some adjustments thinking about the rain.

Finally, race day begins with pouring rain. The start will be by waves and the fastest will take off first. I quickly find myself on the beach in the first group of age group athletes. The sea is somewhat choppy, but not as much as the previous days. I had a slow swim, however I manage to go within the top 3 of my group.

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On T1 I decide to put on socks to avoid blisters due to the friction that occurs with water and shoes. Already on the bike I’m going for the first turn of 90K. On the way out of the town the tail wind pushes speeds of 40 kph. However, I do not feel very comfortable. My legs are not responding as well as I planned. Many athletes begin to pass me by. On the way back the wind hits us on the head and it is a constant struggle that is eating legs. Almost completing the first turn I feel frustrated because I have not managed to do the cycling I had prepared. However, inside I know that I worked very hard for this moment and I am not willing to give in to insecurities.

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Already in the second lap and there is no more room for mistakes. I start strong and little by little I reach many athletes who had passed me. On the way back, the wind begins to take its first victims of premature enthusiasm. I look at my power and I notice that I am much stronger than the first lap.

Incredibly, my legs relax. I no longer feel discomfort and everything is flowing without feeling fatigue. The last quarter of the bike leg goes with a hellish wind. Everyone is struggling and I’m going like this was my first lap.

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We arrive at T2. I know that the hardest part of the race begins and it will not be easy. But I feel strong and secure. The day before my coach convinces me to go strong. It is a risky strategy, but I believe in what we prepared and do what is planned. The marathon consists on 3 laps of 14K by the coast of the city. The first 8 kilometers I run very strong and the wind in favor also helps.

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On the way back the wind works against me and the speed drops significantly, even making a greater effort. Never before had I run with the wind blowing so hard. Suddenly I feel someone is on my heels. I look back and I notice that an Argentine athlete is stuck to me to avoid the wind. I get very upset and I shout that it is not gentlemen what he is doing. If he wants to run with me, he should do it by my side. He tells me that he is not in my age group and begs me to allow him go in my back. Again I shout no and he stands beside me. This is how the first lap with my new friend would go. Running shoulder to shoulder. I do not have to doubt what he says, so I accept his company and we go talking. In the second lap I’m still strong and he can not keep up with me and I leave him behind. (When I finished the race I found out that the liar was in my age group).

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Coming back the wind gets rougher and it becomes harder to keep up. Almost completing the second lap I start to feel muscular fatigue, but it’s the last lap and I’ve done a good race. I fight against fatigue so that my pace does not fall so much, but inevitably I’m losing speed. The last kilometers are terrible. My legs hurt a lot and I feel that meters become endless. There is nothing left to finish, I look at my watch and go for a sub 9 hours 50 minutes. I am happy because I feel that I did my best Ironman with very hard conditions. When I crossed the finish line I have no idea of my place and if I did or not qualify to Hawaii.

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I do not care much because I did my best and gave everything. Already in the recovery room I begin to get curious about my position. I grab my phone and finally I get in touch with my friends who followed me from Chile. I finished in fourth place and with many chances of getting the slot. I go around searching for information on the number of slots in my age group. Nobody knows anything. Already resigned to having to wait, I see a piece of paper stuck in a window that says “Kona Slots”. My age group has 5 slot and I have finished fourth. At that moment my happiness is maximum. This time I managed to qualify directly unlike the first time.

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Everything that I went through and suffered in 6 years since the accident in Hawaii had a reason and it is precisely the moment that I am living right now. The time of sorrows, frustrations and bitterness closes. Over the years I have learned to understand that life gives us difficulties in sports, family and work. Everything is part of a “Master Plan”. At the moment we can not understand it and it makes us question the meaning of life. Only by looking back we were able to connect the dots and understand what happened was to make us grow as people, develop character and learn to overcome adversity.

The rehabilitation was very hard and I had to find my own way to run again. I want to thank everyone who gave me the support I needed in the different stages that I had to go through. Doctors, kinesiologists, physical therapists and friends who never ceased to give me encouragement in good and bad times. To my family that over the years has understood the passion I feel for this sport. To Rocío, my wife, who had to deal with my periods of depression and pain for so long. To my 3 daughters, who are the most important thing in life and hopefully I can transmit the strength of what I had to live so they can apply it in their lives.

That’s how on 2012 I promised to return to Hawaii and in 2018 I will fulfill my promise.

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