I was once told Ironman is a journey that you must learn to do alone, in training, and in the race. I beg to differ, and I got to find out this year that that analogy was gravely mistaken. This year I found my way with family and new found friends, all due to a sport that I love.
3 Days Pre-Race
Well as everyone knows I drove myself to Panama City, which yes I did by my lonesome. I did have the great company of my Ipod, Tuan’s Bike, My Bike, a whole lot of expensive rims, my race gear, and all the stuff for Angie, Kailyn and my self for a week. Upon arriving in Panama City on Wednesday morning, I decided that I would go and check out the Expo. Little did I know that I had ventured into the Central Time Zone, so I was there before it opened. I managed to find the volunteer entrance and wondered around and checked out all the stuff they had, until someone realized I wasn’t suppose to be there. By then it was close for the place to open and I just scurried over to the registration tent. Well my A.D.D. kicked in as I passed the Cervelo tent and they had a gazillion P4’s for test rides. Now I knew I couldn’t pass that up, so I signed up. I took it for a spin, and the whole time thinking to myself, if I get some yellow tape and get it close to looking like my bike, Angie would never notice. After waking from my delusion I returned the bike, smiled at it, and said, “ You WILL be mine, oh yes you WILL be mine.” Well I got my packet and headed to my new home for the week. When I got to the Holiday Inn Resort Sunspree, I checked in and ran straight for the water. I probably should have not ran in the water clothed, people stared at me funny.
2 Days Pre Race
Adriana, Doug, a guy I had jut met and can’t remember his name cause I suffer from CRS(Cant’ Remember Shit), and I went for light swim. Everyone was amazed how buoyant they were in the ocean with their wet suits. We went over drafting in the water, sighting, and just all around had some fun. I mean seriously, what are you going to gain 2 days before and Ironman. After which I had to make the trip to get Angie and Kailyn at the airport.
1 Day Pre Race
Adriana wanted to hit the practice swim course, so I joined her for and easy 1K. The water was beautiful and calm, which I know silently we both hoped lasted to race day. After which we took out bikes out for an easy 6 miler, which I followed with a stroll run of 2 miles. The weather was looking beautiful. The rest of my day was spent at the kiddie pool with Kailyn, which one needed a wetsuit for, because it was cold. Kailyn didn’t care, so daddy had to toughen up. Besides I would have looked like a tard in a wetsuit in the kiddie pool..
I woke up to a great sight, 2 hot chics in the same bed. They have never met until that faithful night where not fate, but I, had brought them together. Yes, I thought to myself in what I thought was my inner voice, but it was my outer one. Great Porns start out this way. After which I, realizing it was not my inner voice, told Kara and Becky I was headed down to my room form the extra room to get ready. Brushed my teeth, washed my face, ate me some oatmeal, and a banana, and grabbed my gear. As I was getting ready to bolt, my little Boo-Boo woke up and smiled at me. That alone was gonna give me energy to do what I had to do today.
The mass start swim, my most feared part of any triathlon. Those of you that have raced with me have noticed I seem to start in the back and make my way through on the swim. Well with 2500+ people, I was sure that was a stupid idea. My pre game plan was to get in the water and warm up before the Ultimate Fight Championship we call a mass start. Well I instantly was side tracked by a voice calling over to me saying, “Hey You Midget!!!” I was instantly driven with attitude to see who the heck would call me such. I mean unless you are a friend, I am going to be pissed. I mean I can’t call a fat person fat, or a bulimic person fat , or yet a dwarf a runt(mostly because I would be saying it eye to eye), but you get the picture. So as I turn around, my jaw hits the ground. My brother drove 8 hours to come see me race. I was so excited I ran up to him gave a great big hug and screamed, “Holy Shit” At which time, we thought it best to move from the area. We didn’t want people thinking we were life partners or something, and not to mention we wanted to salvage any remaining man points we still had.
After my excitement, I knew I had to go and get ready, but it was already to late and they had called all swimmers to the shore so the PROs could get started. I started to work my way to through the crowd towards the front of the mob. After about 2-3 min of side stepping and scurrying around, I had gotten up front to watch the PROs take off. At which time I decided this is where I will start, and where I will conquer my fear of this mass start. After waiting the required 10 min, our gun went off, and instantly 2500+ maniacs hit the water jocking for position. From the pictures Tuan posted, I probably could have jumped from back to back on people and made awesome time. I mean after all I am the size of a Garden Gnome. Well as we all started off, I was remembering the wisdom given to me by Justin. Go all out and be the first one to the first buoy, then I went with what Hugh told me. I remember him telling me don’t go out to hard, find your pace and stick it, so that was what I did. We had some rolling waves, about 1-2 feet, and a pretty good current going out and across. Making the first turn around the buoy was worse than driving on 395 south at 5pm and an accident blocking one of the lanes. We were wading water to get around the buoy, where some of us decided to have a little fun yelling at people like were in rush hour traffic. Once we got around the buoy, everything started to open up for me. I was able to get in a pack of swimmers, and create what had to be 5-6 swimmers in a pace line. I got around to the water exit, and exited with my new found swimming group, and ran straight for the timing mat and back into the water. Lap 2 was better, because there was significantly less traffic and I was able to stay in rhythm all the way to the end.
As I got out the water, I heard my name being yelled, but couldn’t see the person, so I ran straight to the strippers, and they ripped my wet suit off. I felt a little dirt because there was no foreplay, not talking dirty, or snuggling afterwards. I made my way to the shower and hosed my salty body off. Once again, I was in the shower, trying to look sexy as I rinsed my body off. That worked really great until a chic yelled, “Get out the way bitch.” So I did. I ran for my bag, and I yelled out my number as I was coming in, but no one heard me or my number, so I knew where it was and grabbed it. As quickly as I could I got in the changing station, got my gear on, and squirted Chamois Cream in my shorts(Yes Micheal I used the Chamois Cream). I then ran out of the transition for my bike. Once again, no one heard me or my number, so I had planned for that and took a short cut through the racks to my bike. Grabbed her and went for the exit. Again, I heard my name being yelled, but could not identify the person.
First 7 miles was smooth with the wind to our backs. Since I had looked up the wind pattern on my brothers phone, I knew we were in for some good strong headwinds at the first turn north. Once the first turn came..... BOOM! There was the dreaded wind. I could only be happy that I decided to run the Disc wheel. Everything was going great on the bike, I was on pace to finish in the time I wanted. Well around mile 50 or so, I experienced my first flat. I came to a stop and quickly dug into my bike pouch to get me a tube, tire levers and CO2 cartridge. What I didn’t realize was I had laid my bike sideways, and slowly my fluids were draining out of my Aero Drink Container. Well in my frenzy I got the tube changed, tire inflated, and tire on the bike. As soon as the wheel was back on and my bag was closed, I took off. I really wish I would have looked down on the ground, because I would have also realized my bento box wasn’t seal properly and that I dropped all my power bars and electrolytes. I didn’t spend much time changing my tube, so I decided that since we had a little wind to our back, I was going to try and make up some of the time I lost. All of a sudden, a car pulls up next to me, and once again my brother was there. He was yelling at me and giving me inspiration. I got a great video of it on my facebook. Well after 5-10 min of talking to me and keeping my hopes up, he took off. I decided to grab amy half cut Power Bar, but it wasn’t there. I couldn’t believe it, and I knew instantly what happened. Then I entered the bumpiest road known to man. And to add insult to injury, I think the race director put the bumps perfectly at 15-20 feet apart, and then he added a nice strong headwind. It was here on this road I experienced my 2nd flat. What sucked was I saw it coming in slow motion it seemed. Here is where I lost my motivation, and drive. I sat for a second and had to try and regroup, but it didn’t work. So I changed my tube again, and got back on the bike. This time I was frustrated and couldn’t seem to get in a rhythm. I was thankful I used my mountain bike saddle bag, because I had 3 tubes, and 3 CO2 cartridges. I into the aid station to grab what I could, but they had chocolate Power Bars, which is the one that I despise the most, but beggars couldn’t be choosers. I grabbed one with some fluids, and got to motoring again. With a tail wind, I found myself back on rhythm and heading for T2. Of course they couldn’t make it easy, because the last 7 miles were back into the head winds. I then got to the end of the bike, and handed my bike off.
This time went a little smoother, my number was called and my bag met me as I ran up. I immediately ran into the changing tent. I took my time, as I was still bummed that I had 2 flats, and all the mistakes I have made thus far. As I got out of the changing tent, I ran past Becky. As I tried to put on my Garmin, I realized I still had my regular watch, so I quickly called Becky and tossed her my watch. Then I ran into Kara in the transition area. I made a bee line for the port-a-john, and then let the volunteers cover me with a thick coat of sunblock. After which I was off on the run.
My brother was outside the transition at the start of the run. He let me do the out and back before getting on my side. He instantly noticed that there was something wrong, and I told him everything. He told me to get that crap out of my head, it was done, and that I need to get positive, because I was going to need it. The beginning of the run went smoothly and I was taking in as much nutrition as I could, since I was behind on it. I also had extra electrolytes in my run bag, so I started that immediately. First half marathon went pretty smooth, as I started to get out of my funk, and started having a little fun. People like Tuan, Andrianna, Cat, and Team Z members cheering you on, makes you start to feel good. I got to just before the first turn around to finish the first half, and as I ran past the Team Z squad out there, I heard my name and a HUGE, “GO DC TRI!!” I then made the turn to start my 2nd half marathon, and I ran into my greatest supporters. Angie and Kailyn were there, so I stopped and gave them a kiss. I told them I would see them in 13.1 miles. Kailyn gave me her trademark big, and cute smile with waving hands. That snapped me out of my bummed mood. I go pass the Team Z tent again, and got another huge roar with high 5’s. About 1/4 mile down, yes there he was again, my brother was running with me and cheering me on. He was yelling and getting me pumped up for my second half. The second half was going pretty good until about the last 10k. My body started rejecting all nutrition, I guess it didn’t like the power bar gel to much, because I recycled it about 10-15 seconds after I ate it. I was able to sip light amounts gatorade, but nothing solid. I took the occasional solid even though it didn’t want to stay, just to get something from it. About a quarter mile from the finish line, I started to feel the pump, the energy, and the thrill. As I was working my way closer and closer, once again I got to pass the roar of the Team Z tent. I made my U-Turn and I made the right turn to the finishing chute. As I was running to the finish line, and my destiny as an Ironman, I heard the voice again. I crossed the finish line with a summersault, and a fist pump.
Well the race was over, I was beat and in a borderline catatonic state, but I had the metal around my neck and it was time to find my family. Once finding my friends and family, I gave everyone a hug and thank you for all the support they gave today. I specially gave thanks to Angie, for putting up with the long hours of training, and taking care of Kailyn when I was to tired to. The race was over and nothing else could go wrong. So I thought, about 30-40 min after the race, since I was suffering from dehydration, possible low blood sugar, and fatigue, I ended up going into a mild hypothermic cavatation. Well my family and friend jumped to the rescue. Got me to the hotel room, into a warm tub of water and got me candy. What an awesome experience I have had, because after all that which had happened to me.
I am an IRONMAN!!!
First sorry so long on the report.
Second I would love to say thank you to all my friends who sent good words to me on my cell.
Third I want to say Thanks You to DC Tri. Your group rides, training tri’s, seminars, and wealth of knowledge really helps me and many other triathletes.
I also want to give a shot out to Potomac Pedals Touring Club for their Tues/Thurs rides out at Wakefield. And to Bob who has spent a lot of time teaching me about cycling, and group riding tactics. I think you might just get me out to some Cat 5 races when I get back.
Mostly to my girlfriend Angie, mother of my daughter. All the great meals you planned to keep me healthy and training at optimal level. Taking care of Kailyn, and making sure I got to see her everyday and play with her after my training. This achievement is just as much yours as it is mine. Which scares me, because you are already looking at another Ironman for me.
And lastly but not least. My big brother Bobby, you being there was so awesome. Your energy was intoxicating. By the way, 2 days later it hit me, you were the voice yelling out my name all those times during the race. It was your face in the crowd I couldn’t see, but your voice I did. Thanks, I am proud to be your little brother.
Hey Bobby.. WE ARE IRONMAN!!
Now this report made me cry.
Great job Mark!
Mark, you are awesome! You looked great coming across the finish line (watching on the net)! Thanks for the report. Such a great read! I owe you a beer the next time I see ya!!
and make sure you do the cycle racing next spring, its a blast you will really get a better understanding for team tactics and such when you watch the tour next year and it will definitely improve your cycling for non drafting triathlons.
besides that i can't believe you didn't do my method of going all out on the swim in the first 100 m... then again i wouldn't have done that either, i was just curious to see of you would do it. lol...
Awesome job rocking the race. Sounds like you pushed through the adversity that everyone seems to experience in one form or another on those 140.6 long ass miles. Congratulations, man, and have a great off-season.
1. Mark ... I didn't pee on my bike so your car should be clean. You're welcome.
2. Mark Zaragoza from Alexandria Virginia ... YOU ARE AN IRONMAN :)
Mark, your were so strong out there, I saw you on the running course flying!! It was so wonderful to experience this Ironman with you! Cheers! A&M
Great job, Mark! You really worked hard this year. Your report was funny and touching. Enjoy the elusive concept known as the off season.
as the old reebok advertisment goes
"there is no off-season"