Ironman 70.3 Barcelona – 17 May 2015 – Calella, Spain
by Cristina Isabel
I decided to do a Half-Ironman (HI) a year before I formally began my training. The reason for the delay: personal problems. It may sound like a simple excuse, but let’s be honest: to prepare a HI requires physical strength but also an “Iron” determination and stable emotions. It is very difficult to train the mind.
Once I began to sketch my training planning in March 2014, I signed-up for the Seville Half-Ironman with a label called « I can Triathlon » for October 5th of 2014. That would be THE day.
During five months I trained like I had never ever trained before. I was not working at the moment so it was perfect timing. I lost several pounds, I took many new training routes with my bike and feet, I beat my own records, I met new people and I realized how my people got excited about my progress. Apparently I « inspired » some friends to start running. They say they are still running and that excites me greatly.
I loved my training schedule. I suffered gladly. For real. I was happy. It was summer 2014.
After a miserable train trip from Paris – Barcelona – Seville, there I was in Spain three days before the big event, with my neoprene suit, my bicycle, a lot of energy bars; with the best shape I’ve ever had in my entire life and especially with the most great illusion to fulfill a dream that I have since I was 16 years old. It is at that moment when I receive an e-mail from the organization telling me that « The HALF-IRONMAN Seville has been canceled. We are truly sorry for all the inconveniences ». I have the moral duty to report this scam to any triathlete who is reading this, to take precautions and never register any race with this label. It was not their first scam, and I’m sure not the last neither. They took my money, never refunded, they never said anything and they stole my dream.
They stole my dream and I depressed a few weeks. Then I signed-up for another Half -Ironman.
This time was Barcelona May 2015. That means that I had to train during the cold, cold winter … We know how hard it is. Another fact: I realized that the bike part had 1200 meters of climbing (like climbing the “Avila” mountain in Caracas). I’m not a good climbing biker, and I really sucks when I have to down hills because it scares me a lot. But I was already registered and I there was no way back at this point.
So the day arrived, and I was back in Spain, and this time my whole family was present. From them I had a first-class technical support (Thank you!!!). I had to get up them at 4 am (again: Thanks !!), and we went to Calella, like about 100 km from Barcelona. There, I left my stuff in the transition area ( T1 and T2), I checked my bike and my equipment, everything was OK. So I put on my swimsuit and there I was on the beach waiting for the start. I was not that nervous, I was anxious!
I fear the water was cold … in fact it was 14 Cº, so almost frozen. The funny thing is that as soon as I jumped into the water I didn’t feel cold at all. And that’s what I call the « Power of Adrenaline. » I swam and swam. There was nothing interesting in the seabed. I did not get kicked. I wasn’t stressed. I am a swimmer since age 15 and I love to swim long distances in open water. About 100 meters to finish the swimming part, my heart began to beat faster and faster and my mind was remembering me those 1200 climbing meters of the 90 kilometers of the bike part.
I left the water fast; I arrived to the T1 and realized I had two wounds in my neck due to friction with the neoprene suit. I curse the devil when I put some sunscreen in that area. I took off my suit; I took my cycling shoes, helmet and goggles. I drank some Gatorade and I ran out of the T1 to the bike parking. At that moment I saw my family screaming … If anyone you know is encouraged you in races like this, you feel like you’re an Olympic athlete. Trust me. Then I saw many bikes in the parking lot, so I said that I wasn’t the last to leave the water, luckily.
I got on the bike and started to ride … I was very nervous about the hills waiting for me. At kilometer 25 I was on a slope when suddenly a woman on a motorcycle tells me screaming « You’re disqualified for having invaded the opposite lane. » I did not understand. I never saw ANY separation line on the ground< and I never saw any bike coming in the opposite direction. I asked, « What does that mean? Am I going to be penalized with extra-time? « . She replied: « No, you’re disqualified. You can continue but you will not appear in the final results « . And then she marked my bib number with an X. I almost died. I wanted to cry, to insult, to curse. I wanted to quit. It was not fair. I am not a professional athlete, I’m not making money with this, and specially: THERE WAS NO SEPARATIVE LINE ON THE FLOOR. So I never committed any foul. A few days later, checking the race map, I confirmed that in that sector the bikes went ONE WAY only. So I never understood. In the middle of my misery and seeing how they were « stealing my dream for the second time, » I said, « Cristina: What is the most important? Your name in a finisher list? Having a medal? Or COMPLETE YOUR HALF-IRONMAN? The answer came immediately: To complete my HALF-IRONMAN at any price. So I didn’t cry, insulted, curse or quit. For 90 Kilometers I told my-self what they people says all the time « Happiness is not a destination but a journey » So I gladly and happily suffered those Catalonian Mountains like I had never suffered a bike ride before. Generally I’m a good rider on flat routes: 32-35 km / h on average. But here I was going at 15-20 km / h …too bad… I ate some M & Ms chocolates and drank plenty of water and Gatorade. The landscape was very beautiful, and I could speak with some triathletes from all over the world. The theme was always the same: « damn hills… »
I finally got to T2. I leave my bike, I took a sunscreen shower and I took my Adidas to start running. Another woman of the organization with a hateful voice came and grabs me and says « You can’t continue » (because she saw my number marked with an X). So I said, « Look, I WILL continue » – period – (with a strong Caracas-Venezuela accent and a raised eyebrow) and she replied « Ok, but give me your chip and your bib number » So I gave to her only the chip and said with a scowl » I will not give you my bib number, I’ll take it as my souvenir » So she let me go because who is going to debate with a really upset triathlete with iron arms? 😀 (according to me).
I started to run very mad and frowning. I was so upset that I had no physical pain. In a triathlon, usually when you get off the bike to start to run, your legs don’t respond and you run like you’re drunk for a few minutes. But this time I started running firm and painless. I realized that there were not many triathletes running, so I knew several bikers passed me on the bike part. Then I saw my family screaming and cheering … my morale began to rise again. But as a human being, calf cramps and back pain began to appear for the first time at kilometer 11. I took two ibuprofen 400 gr., 3 anti-cramps, an energy shot and the Gatorade (don’t worry, it’s normal in endurance races 😛 ). I did not eat anything because I know my stomach. My mind was thinking only in the “fact” that I will not receive my medal because I hadn’t my race chip. I was beginning to break my-self psychologically again. The heat was strong and there was a lot of dust. A cop asked me if I wanted to quit because he saw me when a cramping pain makes me squirm. I turned my head like “The Exorcist” girl to say « NO ». I think there weren’t more than 20 people behind me. I had asked my sister to run with me the last kilometers of those 21 that meant to run. And she did it !! Then I started to think positively again, I forgot about the missing medal, the hills and the pain and I continued running with my sister and my brother in law, a happy familiar moment. It was about a kilometer to go, and I said to my-self: « You don’t care about a medal or a finisher list, you care about your feat. You did it!!!! « My sister and brother in law separated from me to get to the finish area. To see this area in live it’s beyond description, all that flags with the logo of Ironman70.3, the balloons, the finish arc, and the people still waiting for their athletes. All this exited me very much. Then I saw my whole family screaming and clapping. I regret a lot not having stopped for 10 seconds to take a picture of them there on finish area. But the image is in my mind forever. So I kept running, painless and sweating. I heard my name on the speakers, I crossed the finish line and there was a woman (this time a very nice one) and she hang a medal on my neck. Yes!!!!!…I deserved my medal right? J
For a long time I thought everything was against me in doing my Half-Ironman: events canceled, scams and unfair disqualifications: things that were not my responsibility…And there were also things in my hands like the daily training, take care of food, sleep and rest, take care of injuries, medical visits, get the equipment, etc. I especially had taken care of my mind to not to give-up. I realized that something big always has its difficulties. You have to take charge of the matter, and work on it and dream of it every single day…In sports, and everything in life you desire so.
I have been asked why I do this kind of long endurance races. The answer is: « Because I like it and because I can » that simple. And it is a drug. A nice drug. The more you push yourself to do things, the more you want – so hard – . So, I plan on doing a full Ironman in about two years. Before then though, I’ll be busy with other challenges =D