Since my childhood in Caracas, Venezuela, I have always been an athlete. Team sports like soccer, roller hockey, speed skating, and especially baseball were all a big part of my early life. I always assumed that I would be involved in sports my entire life and, so far, that hasn’t changed. What has changed, is the type of sport I’m involved in.
I moved to the US when I was 19 to attend college at the University of Tampa. I stayed active during college and while building my career in the medical imaging equipment field, but it wasn’t until I was 28 that something changed in me. Team sports fell by the wayside as I shifted my focus to running, cycling and, eventually, triathlon.
Six years later, in 2015, after dozens of triathlon races, 14 of which were at the 70.3 mile, half-Ironman distance ( 1.2 mile swim; 56 mile bike; 13.1 mile run), I felt I was ready for a new challenge. I submitted an application to vie for the Guinness World Record for most half-Ironman triathlons completed in a single year. The current record is 23. I would need to complete, in one year, nearly twice as many half-Ironman’s as I had in the past six years combined. The goal was lofty, but after three months of waiting, Guinness accepted my application, and I made plans to begin my pursuit of the record in 2016.
Just one week later, I was at an Ironman event in Louisville, KY. During the race, I began to experience unbearable pain in my left calf. The pain became so intense that I was forced to stop before I could cross the finish line. Back home, my doctors confirmed that the pain was coming from severe damage to my meniscus and that I would need to undergo a full repair surgery to relieve the pain and to be able to race again. The surgery, which required nearly 12 weeks of recovery and physical therapy, was scheduled for the middle of January. Even if I recovered ahead of schedule, the year would be 25% over before I could get even one half-Ironman under my belt.
This news was discouraging, to say the least. I had just gotten everything in place to pursue my goal, only to have a huge obstacle, one that I had no choice in, set in front of me. Through introspection leading up to my surgery though, I considered the circumstances that many others fight through.
A lot of the races I had been a part of over the years had ties to non-profit organizations. Some of the people I had seen and the stories I had heard came back into my mind. Most notably, stories from the Challenged Athlete Foundation (CAF), a group that helps provide athletic-grade prosthetics and appliances for athletes who have been physically challenged by severe injuries or congenital conditions, and also stories of the patients at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital; kids, some not even out of pre-school, already facing circumstances that could take literally everything away from them.
Knowing that there are people fighting much harder and with much more at stake, I doubled-down on my commitment to breaking the record, regardless of the time I would lose to my recovery. Now, after a full recovery, with lots of help from my doctors and physical therapists, I’m nine races into my goal with more scheduled every weekend for the next 16 weekends. In between working my regular job Monday through Friday, I’m travelling all over the US, racing in a dozen states, and even racing in the US Virgin Islands and Canada.
In addition to setting a new record, I’ve decided to widen the scope of my goal and use any attention this pursuit might draw to raise awareness for the organizations that helped inspire me. I encourage anyone reading this story to look into the courageous battles being fought by children and athletes with the help of CAF and St. Jude’s.
Ultimately, this experience has taught me that there is no excuse for making excuses. Very few things in life can actually stop us from achieving our goals if we only have the commitment and the discipline to overcome them. The Guinness Book is filled with regular, working-class people who set excuses aside, embraced commitment and discipline, and became their very best. I hope to be one of them very soon.
To follow my journey and help me support both organizations please go to http://aracing.net/