The 'Yellowman' Race!
A tale from Island Extreme Triathlon
July 27 2019
Extreme Island Triathlon was one of the most amazing races I’ve ever experienced. From the astonishing views of the valleys to the incredible challenging course. From the winds down from the mountains to the colorful cascades. From the adrenaline of the athletes to the positive vibes of the support groups. Everything was perfect, including my overall race and performance. From the preparation to the race, to the incredible support, to the energy and focus, I had a perfect race.
And yes….what a day; cold, rainy, windy, and hilly! Nevertheless, believe it or not, I really enjoyed the race!. That’s what I do, yes, it was hard, and probably one of the hardest races I've done, but if it was easy, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it that much.
The day started with a beach start swimming on a shallow and cold lake surrounded by magnificent mountains. This was not as difficult as my last extreme in Patagonia, were we jumped from a big boat; however, as the cold winds hit my face, the adrenaline kicked in and the nerves went up. Overall was a good swim, it was very cold, but with gloves and booties I was able to manage, finishing in the middle of the pack. It was a different experience because the lake was shallow and you could stop and walk. It was funny to be swimming and see a person walking on the side.
Transition to Bike:as in all races, the transition started with a kiss to my wife Andrea. The transition was also super cold, and the terrain was full of loose rocks, hard for running with swim booties. Anyway, Andrea made it easier for me, knowing my needs well, and with her experience in all races, she was a great support and helped me to quickly warm up and dress for the epic ride. She was also ready to help me wear layer by layer. This time we had everything planned to the detail!
Started the bike with a lot of clothing so I could quickly warm up, but with only a few miles into the course, I stoped and took out the top layer. It was cold but the adrenaline kicked in and I warmed up faster than I thought. The only part that never got warm were my feet, they were cold and numb pretty much all race. The bike route was amazing, the views were incredible, and the pavement was perfect all the way. The hard part were the strong winds, the rain, and the cold. It was an epic ride with a lot of climbs and descents with strong winds. The steep descents with side winds were a major concern. Making sure I got some speed for the next climb, I was always ready to press the brakes. The most challenging part was at mile 80, were my friend and support Stuart said “don’t worry Fernando, the rest is flat”…however, what was coming was nothing but climbs and strong wind…wonder if Stuart wanted me to have positive thoughts before the big climb! The one thing that kept me focus and happy thru the bike was a song that I heard in the past, but the only part of the song I remembered was “…from Jamaica..that’s where I am from…”…so I repeated this every now and then, making me smile. This lyrics really kept me happy and enthusiastic. I didn’t even know where this song came from until later on, when we figured out this was a song called “Country Road” I heard in the past from Yellowman.
Transition to Run:managed to finish the bike in less than 6 hours and got to the next transition. Andrea, Stuart, and Natasha helped me to warm up and change clothing for the running. It was a quick transition, and the key was to change the mindset ready to go for the big mountain. These transitions are different than the ones in a regular Ironman. Here I had to prepare for a big desolated mountain full of unknowns…this is why I had to carry a few mandatory items for self-support. Also, I didn’t have a support runner, so had to make sure I was taking everything needed with me.
Started with a low pace going up the mountain when quickly realized the way up was so steep that I had to conserve energy and walk at times. My strategy was to walk on the steep sections and run on the flats, and followed that pattern very consistently up to the top. A couple of people passed me, there were going fast so I figured the were from the mountains or locals. When I got to the first descent at mile 9, I started running all the time. It was then when I started seeing people again, a couple first, and then other teams ahead of me. I passed 4-5 teams one by one thru the downhill. I said ‘teams' because all of them had a support runner which was recommended for this race. I did a very fast descent (actually was concern about hurting my quads), but probably my running experience from Boston marathon and some Xterra races helped me throughout. It was then when I saw Natasha, from my support crew. She was going up hill for a mile or so to check the running course. Then saw Stuart, he was also checking the running course. I didn’t even stop to talk to them, instead I kept going and told them I was doing fine…of course with a big smile, as always. Then saw Andrea at the midd point, she was waiting for me with a coke and a sandwich, yeah! This was the turn around and so went back to the mountain. Seeing people going the opposite direction from my first half, I knew I was in the top 13-15. A couple of teams passed me again on the first few climbing sessions. But then when I got to the top and started seeing people in front again, I “pressed the pedal” and started focussing on passing one by one again. I passed a father and son, then passed another couple of teams. This last descent was much faster, I was so focused that when I saw Stuart again 2-3 miles before end, I said “Stuart follow me if you can, but I will not stop...”. By the way, of course I was singing the Yellowman song at times!
Half a mile from the end, I got to see the finish line and could visualize Andrea with her flashy red jacket. I was so determined to finish that didn’t stop running until the very end. It was then when I stared thinking about the day, and how lucky I was to be there, and how grateful I was for life and for my friends, my wife, my kids, my partners, and how everything is possible with the right focus and effort.
This was an amazing race. I finished in 12:35' in the 8th place overall. And again, I feel so lucky, lucky to be there, lucky to be alive, lucky to have such support, lucky to just be able to write my story. My gratitude goes to Andrea, Stuart, and Natasha; I couldn’t have done this without them. Andrea was magnificent, she was as focus as I was, she helped me throughout and encouraged me with positive words. Stuart and Natasha were great also. Stuart drove all the time and was very supportive all the time. So was Natasha, was always ready to help. I am so thankful to my support crew!
To finalize my story, I just wanted to mention the amazing camaraderie we experience on this type of races. It felt like family at times. This race had a couple of friends racing, Pharis and Lars, and seeing them there was an amazing good feeling. I also appreciate the organization by Aaron and his team who took care of every single detail to make sure we enjoy a safe race. And now….start preparing for Nice 70.3 World Championship, Kona Ironman World Championship….and Alohaman..why not!
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