My cell phone says it’s 1:45 a.m. and I’m lying down in bed fully awake, ready for the race. Even though I tried to go back to sleep, the mix of excitement and anxiety keeps me awake for the rest of the night. As the next four hours pass, I visualize every step of the triathlon 100 times and engage in some relaxation meditation.
Finally, it’s time to get out of bed. My bag is ready from the previous night with all my equipment, gels, fruit bars and water bottles. No need to double check since I went through it at least 10 times. It’s time to put on my tri suit, grab my bag and meet the other Ambassadors for breakfast.
Although the room at breakfast was pretty quiet and consumed with focus, the excitement and energy still resonated throughout. As excited as I was, I was concerned about my injury from three days ago to my lower back. I could barely walk. While getting in my last bit of training before the race, an older back injury resurfaced. Even though the doctor told me I could probably still do the triathlon, I was concerned with the running portion — especially since it comes after spending almost two hours of being bent forward on my bike. I had to mentally prepare myself that I may only be able to walk the 10km, instead of run. In any case, the big day had finally arrived.
Once we arrived onsite, there was no time to think about my back. Everything went really fast: setting up the transition zone, eating one last snack, hitting the bathroom before putting on the wet suit on and getting my good luck kiss from my number one fan — my wife Melanie. Before I knew it, I was on the beach waiting for our Global CEO, Alain Dehaze to say “go!”.
As I began swimming, I wondered how I would do in the vast ocean. 37 minutes later, I had my answer — the swim was amazing! I even got to admire some fish along the way. Things were going well, I was having a good time and most importantly, I was smiling. However, I knew the biggest part of the race was still ahead: removing the wet suit, 43.5km of cycling and 10km of running.
Then came the bike course through Puerto Del Carmen. The scenery alone was breathtaking; the country side, wineries and the volcanoes, volcanic rocks and lava path along Timanfaya Park were absolutely amazing. This portion of the triathlon was the highlight for me. It even almost made me forget the 20km climb and the cramps that started in my right calf and left thigh. It was the moment when I felt the magic of completing a race with a team. The thumbs ups and encouragements amongst Ambassadors made such a difference. After 2:26 in the race — the ride taking appx 1:50 — and it was time to get off the bike and run!
My back was so stiff when I got off the bike that I couldn’t run. As I removed my cycling gear, I took an ibuprofen and focused on the last (and most grueling for me) portion of the race: the 10km run. If it wasn’t for my injury, this is when I would’ve performed the best, however it ended up being the most difficult. The start of the running course was close to the VIP area where all the Win4Youth supporters — my wife included — were watching the race. Needless to say, my pride took over and I managed to run a few hundred meters before stopping to stretch my back. As painful as it was, my biggest concern remained to finish the race in a decent time. I stopped at least two or three times to stretch in the first 5km and my pace was very slow. In my vision, I was going to fly over the running course with a big smile while passing the other runners. It was extremely frustrating to not see that to fruition. I still had some energy left but my back wouldn’t let me run. And, I don’t think I was smiling much at that point.
Although I was far from my usual speed, I was able to increase the pace in the second half of the run and eventually catch up to some of the runners who passed me. It took me an 1:08 to complete the 10km — 20 minutes more than my last Olympic Triathlon in Quebec.
Even though my finish was not as strong as I hoped, I truly felt the magic. I forgot about my back and focused on enjoying the moment. The last six months of sacrifice and training became worthwhile as the finish line approached. As that finish line hit my line of vision I felt proud, happy. Best of all, I was smiling. I made it. Despite the bumps in the road along the way, I enjoyed the journey and am truly grateful to have been given the opportunity. I will remember these moments for the rest of my life.
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