If you have not been reading this blog for a while you may not know why Ironman Arizona is as important to me as it is. I figured that with 7 weeks left until race day I would let you in on why this race has more meaning than any other race I have ever done.
Back in 1995 during graduation week from SUNY-Oswego I was given the news that would alter my life forever, yet at the time I didn’t realize it. I was more interested in grilling, drinking beer and playing beach volleyball at our frat house than I was in allowing the news to sink in. Crazy thing is I remember this day very vividly but I probably could not recount it for you a couple of years ago and I think that is because I mentally blocked it out.
On this day I was told by my parents that my father had cancer. My father grew up poor in a poor neighborhood in Puerto Rico before moving to New York and growing up under not the greatest of circumstances. So he picked up cigarette smoking, and if I remember correctly that started at 9 years of age. When I got to high school I practically begged my parents to quit smoking and they actually did. They both went cold turkey and it was great and I was so happy for them.
When I got the news and found out that it was throat cancer from smoking I found it so ironic. Here my Dad was telling me he had cancer from smoking and yet he hadn’t smoked in years. The questions swirled through my head as to how, why, when, where…..you name the question it went through my head but again it was with the thought that he would beat it.
My father would go through chemo and be in and out of the hospital more times than I could count and then he finally succumbed to the disease. In a way it was the most peaceful thing that could happen to our family. We struggled to watch him suffer as my father was very tough and this weakened state was not him. My mother spent years sleeping on a pull up bed in his hospital room and I was in charge of taking care of my younger sister.
My father passed away one week prior to his 50th birthday. Imagine not making it to your 50th birthday. It is impossible for me to fathom, and yet it happened.
When I got into endurance sports I had never run a race in honor of my father. It wasn’t until a 15k that I chose to dedicate to him that I started to lean on him during the hardest of times during races. When the pain in my legs would get to unbearable points I would think about my father and what he endured and realized that I could go further.
As I began training for long course triathlon I pointed to Ironman Arizona in 2013 as the race I had to do. I knew the difficulty in getting into the event because it sells out so quickly but I was going to go to this race no matter what. Along the road I noticed my training was going well and chose to race Ironman Texas as my first 140.6 race and I am glad that I did.
Ironman Arizona is in 7 weeks and with this being the second one I am less nervous about the training and the race and more focused on hitting the sessions and being prepared for race day. Race day is November 18 or in my world…..my father’s birthday.
I had to get into this race this year because it would have been another 7 years before I could race Ironman Arizona on my father’s birthday. When registration opened up the blood surged through my body as I answered every question and clicked through it all until I got the notification that I was in. The adrenaline left my body almost immediately and I went and took a nap. When I woke up I smiled and thought that I would be racing on November 18th.
When this day rolls around I hope to keep the tears from filling my goggles and I hope that when mile 24 of the marathon comes around I can think about the strength my father had and hope that it transfers to me.
This is going to be an emotional day but I will be doing it not for myself but for my father. I am going to give him a birthday present he never would have asked for.
Thank you for everything Dad. I will make you proud.