Los Angeles Triathlon Club
Race Report
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Club Member: Ralph Zavala
Race: The full Silverman ...
Distance: Ironman
Race Date: 11/09/08
Submit Date: 06/05/09

“Men go back to the mountains, as they go back sailing ships at sea, because in the mountains and on the sea they must face up, as did man of another age, to the challenge of nature. Modern man lives in a highly synthetic kind of existence. He specializes in this and that. Rarely does he test all his power or find himself whole. But in the hills and on the water the character of a man comes out.” – Abram T. Collier

“I am soo ready for this race… I’m going to make this race my servant (a PG paraphrase). I want this to be hardest triathlon in my life…. I want it hot and windy. No- I actually want it extra hot and windy. I want to come out of this race exhausted. Bring it on… In fact I want you to go light a candle for me… to insure it.” – Ralph Zavala

Yup those were my words on the week of the race, what a cocky son of a gun… and boy did the forces of nature respond to my challenge. As if something greater than me was listening. Sunday November 9th of the year of my lord 2008 will be engraved in me forever. I started an Iron distance triathlon with a really bad cold in the worst of weather conditions for a race.

The race started sharply at 6:30 am with slight overcast conditions (weather.com only predicted an overcast day). 174 crazies like me started the Nevada Full Distance Silverman Triathlon. The race starts in a mass fashion. At about the first mile in the swim the water started getting really choppy. And low and behold a storm system developed right above the lake. The conditions on the lake got so bad that all the life guards on the Kayaks were pulled out of the lake. My siblings told me after the race that the spectators were all watching in ahh… they could see the wind blowing into the lake and creating three to two foot breakers/waves. I had to swim through these breakers… I've never swum in anything like this in my life. There were no kayaks to guide you along the way and the waves were so large that you could not see the buoys that guide your path. I pretty much relied on the shore line for a sense of direction. It was horrible… stroke, stroke and attempt to gasp for air as it only came along with a slap of a wave. Not to mentioned the congestion in my sinuses from the cold. The waves were so powerful that they would throw me into the air and drop me down like a ragdoll. Then the wind would spray icy cold water on my face and body. In order to make progress I timed the waves and pierce myself into the water in front of me and pulled really, really hard. I finally made it close to the finish and could hear the crowd cheering… they were cheering for me! I was also greeted by the other athletes that were waiting for their wave to start in the changing tent. I later found out that the next wave (the half ironman racers) were delayed because of the lightning!!! If you want to know exactly how my swim felt check this clip out:


“And I also know how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong, but to feel strong, to measure yourself at least once, to find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions, facing the blind, deaf stone alone. With nothing to help you but your hands and your own head”. - Christopher McCandless

Stripped off my wetsuit and headed into the changing tent where I put on my sunglasses (also have my RX), helmet and cycling shoes and off to find my girl (I named my bike “my girl”). Trying to find my bike was crazy all of the signs which were put up with sandbags where blown down. The wind was so fierce it knocked bicycle helmets and other sports equipment all over the place. Of course the conditions were just equal on the bike course. Rain and wind (not heat and wind which I trained for). As you head off towards the mountains the first section of the path is flat with rolling hills. I like to take advantage of this and crank my speed up to 23 to 25 miles per hour. Unfortunately the wind just makes this a very difficult task. The wind would wobble my front wheel to the right… which was really scary going that fast. I had one hand on my earo-bar and the other on the handle bar to keep my balance and hold on really tight. Ohh but the best part is the cold rain hitting your face going fast, it felt like small pellets of hail hitting your face as they were being fired off a gatling gun. (In certain instances I could actually see the big grey cloud sucking up water from the lake with a big gigantic straw and spit it at me.) Up and down and up and up and down and up… over and over and over again… at the 95 mile marker the course ends up on a bike path which has three hills with 1500 feet of climbing. They call these hills the three sisters with grades approaching 15%. And let me tell you the last sister just kicked my butt, but I hated all three just as equally. These hills are soo steep that both my knees have bruises from hitting the handle bars on my bike… I had to get off my seat and pull and push very hard on the pedals. Then I got to the last 10 miles through Henderson, one climb after another with 25 mph winds blowing directly at me. With no sun, the temperature stayed in the mid-50s. Even on the down hills, we couldn’t go over 22 or 23 mph because of the fierce head wind. My fingers were going numb and ahh, the exquisite pain and my sinuses. The 112 mile bike course has over 9,700 feet of climbing, which is just over a third of the way up Mount Everest!

The Marathon… The 26.2 mile run course involved over 2,000 feet of climbing. Folks I started off with a jog but as soon as the hills came along I ended up with a stride that I call the float on a cloud skip. I tried and tried and I could not run with speed for the life of me. The bike ride completed depleted the twigs I call legs… it wasn’t till mile 18 that I recovered from the bike ride. I think a lost a large amount calories due to the cold temperature. My body was working hard trying to stay warm. My feet went numb for about 8 miles… I don’t know if it was from the 32 degree weather or that I might have been going into hypothermic or what. During the marathon I had the pleasure to meet two gentlemen… Michael and Jon. Jon gave me some great advice on relationships, which I though was genius and Michael was one of those inspiring stories that you hear from time to time. Michael lost fifty pounds in a year and decided to do an Iron distance Triathlon the next. He never ran a marathon, never biked the distance nor was he ever an athlete before this and to top it off he was an Alcoholic and Drug Abuser. He told me, “If I can finish this I'm going to put together a 3 year plan for success.” Wow… I congratulated him on his achievement and mentioned that I was also a member to the fifty pound club. What were the odds? I finally started running at mile 18. As I approached the finish chute I saw my siblings and two boys waiting for me right on the finish line. It was the coolest feeling to run towards your loved ones and have them embrace you with love and happiness. I won’t go into the glossy eye stuff because you guys are going to think I’m a big wimpJ

I would share with you the video clip of my finish but man do I have one of the dirtiest mouths when all those endorphins are kicking in, I make Bobby Knight seem like a choir boy… yikes! I completed the Nevada Silverman Full Distance Triathlon in sixteen hours on the dot. I typically finish these guys in 12 hours and change but the course and the conditions on this day were challenging… it took a professional athlete an additional two hours to finish! My sinuses never cleared up and I became feverish on Monday. Did I come in to work on Tuesday… well after racing in an Iron distance triathlon with a cold I believe coming into an office job is doable… don’t you think?

“There once were people who lived their lives within a Cave of Illusions. After generations, they came to believe that their own shadows, cast upon the walls, were the substance of reality. Only the myths and religious tales spoke of a brighter possibility. Obsessed with the shadow play, the people became accustomed to and imprisoned by their dark reality.” – Anonymous

Aren’t you tired of the shadow play, are you fulfilled by the shadow play? Then go beyond the illusion… I challenge you to go into the sunlight. I encourage all of you to set your goals and to use the power and momentum of the New Year to venture into new journeys. Again don’t wait till it’s too late… you just never know if you’ll be given the same chance later.

~ Ralph

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