Competing against yourself!

I was suppose to post this article awhile ago right after my first ironman race! That did not happen mostly because I just did not feel like posting something when everyone was expecting it.
Plus what interests me more is visiting friends, colleagues, and new people in my travels as that can uncover an individual inspirational story itself that we can all learn from.

For those who do not know I have lost my father when I was 9 years old and honestly I do not remember much (May God rest him in peace and mercy). One of the only thing that stuck in my head was that he was the first example and influence in my life on what I wanted to be when I grew older. He showed me commitment and dedication.

I am a Software Engineer I hold a master’s degrees which happened recently. Which means that I spend more time looking into screens on a daily basis more than anything else in the world (not just on work obviously I watch movies and play video games more than anyone I know 🙂 ). After 21 years of being an indoor geek I needed that push more than anyone else. This stress-induced episode was truly a transformative moment for me to be kicked out there to discover the outdoors activities. It was a wake-up call I became acutely aware of the fragility of life and how limited our time is. Do not get me wrong I still enjoy watching movies A LOT but in the past two years I have successfully completed and placed myself in the top 10 or 20 of my age category in the following:

Tough Mudder (Run Race 21k incline/37 Obstacles )
Spartan (Trail Run Race 7km/18 Obstacles)
Six times half marathons (21km run/trail)
Five times Olympic Distance (Triathlon Race swim 1.5km/bike 40km/run 10km)
Two times Challenge Half-Distance Ironman (Triathlon Race swim 1.9km/bike 90km/run 21km)
Two times 70.3 Half-Distance Ironman (Triathlon Race swim 1.9km/bike 90km/run 21km)
One Maxi ITU (Triathlon Race swim 1.5km/bike 80km/run 20km)
One Full-Distance Ironman (Triathlon Race swim 3.9km/bike 180km/run 42km)

Let me put it in this way it means I have trained only for a year! From August 2015 to August 2016 I have:
Swam 156km over 87 times which took me 66 hrs
Cycled 3,013km over 98 times which took me 128 hrs
Ran 1,029km over 107 times which took me 85 hrs

 

swim bike run

 

 

Looking at it from different angle and to put it in a fancy infographic measuring the bike and run that I did!

infographic

 

One thing I get asked about a lot is do I like what I do? After giving it a lot of thought the answer is I do. I do not have an excuse for being weak and I really want to know my limitations. It sounds absolutely crazy but it is like caffeine once you get into it you want more of it. First you need to get used to it then it becomes a routine, and then you get itchy if you stop doing it for a week.

Yes I feel sometimes exhausted, sometimes I fail, and sometimes I injure myself like everyone else from top athletes to first time starters. I have seen injuries in front of me and I have seen people collapse as well (May God rest them in peace and mercy).

I say to myself always, why? Why I do this to myself? Is it really worth it? The reason for doing sport is to be active, but I guess not anymore I have taken it to the next level. A level where I might get myself into something serious! I start remembering my dad and hearing him waking up at 3am on a daily basis for work without complaining or giving up. Whether he was working at the farm or somewhere else! I remember when he risked himself to rescue us when the house burnt down, and that one time when he drove in the middle of the night to help the farmers fix their water drilling rig which broke down in the middle of nowhere in the desert! At the end of the day he returns home smiling and happy and he asked us if we want to go out camping or for some adventures! I bet my dad knew at that time if he did not accept the challenge and had the same lifestyle of most of others which was getting up at 6am for work and finishing at 3pm with the same daily routine everyday, he would still be fine, but what is the point? I have not seen an ocean without waves.

A wise man once said “In everyone’s career sometimes you go up and sometimes you go down, but the trick is not to lose yourself along the way.” Get used to falling, get used to a new routine, and we all need that push in our lives whether it is to lose weight, breaking personal record or summit a peak.

“Life will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” -Sylvester Stallone, Rocky Balboa

Know your body better! Every time I learn something new: from the lack of sleep before the race, the food I eat, or even the drinks I take during a race. No one knows your body better than yourself. Dedication and commitment to reach your goal, everyone will break down!! But who can get up and how fast getting up are the two questions? Not stopping till passing the finish line!! Whether it’s related to school, work, or sport! Everyone breaks down from the person who just start doing sport until the pro athlete level!

 

Now here’s the part that everyone hopefully was expecting to read 🙂

 

I AM FINALLY AN IRONMAN!
(3,8km swim + 180km bike + 42,2 km run)
The place was Whistler, Canada Date 24th July 2016 Completed in 11 hours and 43 minutes
On April 2014 with the first duathlon race I had ever done with a distance of 10km bike and 3km run. I told one of the participants that I’m going to do a full distance IRONMAN. Since that time it was just a dream.
The following year of 2015 I did pre-book for the IRONMAN Whistler, Canada 2015. My friend Paul McParland always told me not to do it unless I was ready to train at least 3 hours every day. My reply at that time was just, “No.” But I wanted to be an Ironman. It was insane and crazy to stick with it with what was going on in my mind at that time.
Unfortunately ironman 2015 did not happen because of a new job that I joined at that time so I had to postponed it.

Paul passed away after a finish line of one of the races that we had completed together, that was not easy on me and on everyone. Life knocks you and the people around you down, but you get back up for yourself and the love ones you lost.
Since then it was just commitment and dedication from August 2015 up to this August 2016, I had signed up for three half-distance Ironmans, one ITU maxi distance triathlon, and five Olympic distance triathlons. Training no less than 22 hours a week.
I signed up for the IRONMAN Whistler, Canada 2016 and I knew I was going to do it not just for me or for the people who believed on me, but for Paul. It was exactly the same race and same distance we had been talked about, and here I am completing it alhamdulillah.

The month of Ramadan in 2016 came 20 days before the race. I was worried for what would become of my training schedule during the month? I did a lot of research on the internet and could not find any advice only that professional athletes fast for couple days before a race to give them the ability to take a massive amount of carbs. I contacted coaches that I could reach and all were unsupportive. I don’t blame them honestly it was a stupid idea to do it, but I did it anyways.

I did it because back then Paul used to find always solutions for the excuses I usually come up with (LOL). I remember back in 2015 during the month of Ramadan I told him that I would stop for a month cause I would be fasting and he immediately said, ”Why?” Then followed by, “Are you not allowed to break the fast here at the swimming pool with us or your do not want to share your food with us? I will see you tomorrow”.

Paul was with me during the training and he was the main push. I trained before breaking the fast for one hour maximum then I break the fast with normally something sweet like dates with water for hydration, and then some carbs to give me the energy. I would workout again for another hour or two then eat the big meal. Sometimes I switched and I start breaking the fast with a big meal then start the big session for three hours till they call me for the last meal before I start the fast for the next day. It was hard especially that I do not get to sleep in the morning and I still have to go to work till the afternoon. However, nothing stopped me cause I knew if Paul was there he would still find a solution for that. I could never forget my friends who joined me during the training. They were suffering(I could see it in their eyes) just to cheer me up and they were amazing support people. After fasting for 16 hours who would want to do a 180km bike ride? Or a 4km swim? Or a full marathon 42km run and finish at just 15 minutes before calling to start the fasting the next day. I didn’t want to do it, but I did it anyways. I couldn’t afford not too.

Usually I am nervous the night before the race and the morning of the race, but this time I was not. It was strange to myself and to my friends who joined me during the race. I showed absolute calmness to the point where I was replying to my colleagues emails back at work the night before the race and the early morning before leave the hotel room going to the race.

We started with the swim part where it was just amazing. On a very clean and clear water with all the green mountains around. I saw them at every breath side I made. It was not as cold as I was expecting. Participants can get aggressive at the start of the race to the point that everyone must get kicked.I got my kicked on my right eye to the point that I could not pull the goggles out and fix them during the swim they went deep inside the eyebrow. It was really strong kick that caused me to lose sight with that eye so I kept it closed the whole swim part. I still enjoyed the swimming until I felt my right hand go numb after 2.8km. I thought for second the engine starting shutting down! We swam a square course of two laps: two side were 800 meters long and two sides were 150 meters long, I took a breath every second stroke to the right side and one side of 800 meters the sun very strong to the point could not see so I kept both eyes closed. Still the swim was the most enjoyable part of the race that took my attention and caused me to lose my direction so I ended up doing more distance with total of 4.2 km 🙂

swimroute

 

First Transition right after the swim I was hungry, so I took a peanut butter bar then got on the bike went out.

It was tough hilly bike course to the point that whoever quoted “Every uphill there is a down hill” had absolute not been to Whistler where the uphill just seemed endless. I took about four peanut butter bars and three peanut butter energy gels. It took me forever to complete the bike. I was bored, hot, and uncomfortable. However, it was an unexpected different ride mixed with emotions and flashbacks to some memories. Good thing the helmet was really big on me and pretty much my whole head was covered because I teared up I screamed but still no one could tell. The bike course was the part I was worried about the most and I kept asking myself, “what if I get flat tire? What am I going to do?” A month before the race I had changed my tires from clincher to tubular type, it was not my call I had to because the new rim I was using forced me to use that kind of tire. When I arrived to the event I started asking if anyone is using same tubular as mine? I found none I figured then it was European thing more than a North American thing. I was pretty much screwed I never had changed this type of tire and I have no such a clue on how to change it. YES I was praying the whole time not to get a flat tire. However, praying was not enough to just ride comfortably, so I came up with three plans, plan A,B, and C.
Plan A: Spray foam to be carried so once I get the puncture I stick the sprayer in the air valve and empty the whole bottle inside the tire. Then the foam would work its job to cover the cuts from the inside.
Plan B: Tape that mostly is used for cuts on the tire itself from the outside. It only works like 10% of the time. If I get to plan B that means I would probably move quickly to Plan C.
Plan C: Spare tire that I brought, imagine a whole extra tire to race with, it was heavy and probably it was one of the things slowing me down during the ride and the main problem here is if I get a flat tire I do not know how to change the tire itself. In addition, if I get to this plan and figured out how to change the tire I have got two things to fill up the tire with air. First was the manual mini air pump which will take forever to fill up the tire with air, and Second was the CO2 where within seconds the tire is ready to go. Which it turned out I never had to use :P.

The entire bike course I did not stop once I was afraid if I stop then I see the flat tire happen what would I do? After 90km of the ride, for some reason I had lost the spray foam it dropped and I lost it without me noticing it. I was so worried, and prayed more and more thinking for more plans. The thing about getting a flat tire is that it is not just a time waste that still counted under my total race time, but it would definitely mess me up mentally and physically and it will take out what is left from my energy.

bike2

 

Finally I arrived to the second and last transition before I headed out for the run where my strength is.
Okay I was expecting the run to be easy and kind of rewarding after that tough course bike, but it was not it was again uphill and half of it was trail run. It was still an enjoyable run among those green mountains and blue lakes all around. It was really nice seeing the audience once again after the loneliness of the bike ride. Strange part was after about 26km the emotions again hit me, but hard this time. I could not help it this time and I just let it out hard for a minute and start running again. All this time occupied with the run I had been thinking about the wall that everyone was warning me about. They told me that I would hit the wall not in the swim or the bike but it definitely on the run course. I believe it it is mental more than anything else, and I realized that every couple kilometers I slowed my pace just to feel if I was wall hitting. Luckily one of the good friends had came and went running on the opposite side of runners looking for me. It totally distracted me from my thoughts of the wall. I cannot explain it in words other than I had been recharged full of motivation when we met. I was able to accelerate the pace of my run and finished sprinting towards the ends and without ever hitting the wall 🙂

run1

 

Thanking God I completing the race without my body giving up on me, injury free, and no flat tires!
Thank you everyone for once again believing in me! Thank you mom, family and friends!
Thank you to my Ramadan training buddies 🙂

 

Before ending the part about the ironman I just wanted to highlight an interesting fact. I measured my weight in the morning, an hour before the race starts that day and then I measured it again same day right after the race ended. The result was that I have lost 8 lb/3.6 kg of my weight. I’m not really sure was it water or muscle mass but that was really interesting I found.

A month before the race I received an email from the TV producer of IRONMAN Canada. Thought it was just somebody pranking me, but I lived the moment and replied back. Arrived at the hotel for the race on the 20th of July and saw them waiting at the lobby for me from the TSN sport channel. I was calmly surprised more and not believing it, but I asked if I could go eat and come back to them just to give myself sometime to realize the situation that I had put myself into.

Anyways long story short I did couple interviews also they were keeping me a company during the race through a little GPS chip where they could spot me anytime until for some reason it turned off during the run part. Then again they found me when I was close to the finish line.

Here’s the result they played down below in the link, keep in mind that it is 47 minutes long 🙂 I pop up many times in the video!

Click here below to watch the film

 

 

 

I look forward to people joining me for the next IRONMAN adventure!

Majeed