by Jason Bahamundi
I am originally from New York and lived there basically my whole life. I was always playing sports growing up. It was what I did and not just play but studying them. Even to this day, I can watch a sporting event and spot the play before the announcers talk about it. Sports was my thing, but then you graduate college, get a job, get married and it all seems to fade away. I started running again because I was asked to do so and I did it reluctantly, as it was not my idea of a sport. Sports for me was football, baseball, basketball and hockey. I ran around the track and found out how out of shape I was and it became a passion of mine to get back into the shape I used to be when I was in college.
By 2006, I was really running more seriously and before I knew it I was running a half-marathon. But unfortunately, after that, the hammer dropped in my own personal life and I had a divorced. The impending divorce led to more time on the couch and in front of the TV instead of in my running shoes. Later in 2007, I decided to move to Dallas to give a new relationship a chance, and that is when I met my new girlfriend Karen. I didn’t know anybody there but was fortunate to have met her, all while the non-training lifestyle continued. Then I met a few new friends and one introduced me to the sport of triathlon. No clue what I was getting myself into, but I found myself hooked. I hired a coach and began training in earnest. This was all happening at the same time that I was moving on with my life, and found myself spending time with a new girlfriend which I found to be refreshing at that moment in my life. I remember one day my girlfriend encouraged me to really do something to motivate myself and I did. I joined a softball team where I met two people who did triathlons. I thought it was a cool idea and I signed up for a sprint that the swimming actually took place in a swimming pool. Thank goodness for that because I would have drowned in open water.
I remember in October in 2010 I had a night to forget. I drank more than anybody should and my new wife Karen was ready to leave me. I could not bear the fact that I could have done this and promised her I would never drink again if she was willing to forgive me. Eventually she did forgive me and since that day I have not had a drink. It was at that point that triathlon became my drug of choice. I wanted to not just participate in the sport but I wanted to be good at it. At his point I was going through the motions of racing sprints and then decided I was going to do the 2011 70.3 Ironman California in April 2011. My life as I knew it on that fateful day in October was changed forever but it was sealed when I crossed the finish line of Ironman 70.3 California. I finished in a time of 5:42 and I thought that was decent considering the course did not play to my strengths, but overall I was happy.
On the flight home from San Diego, I saw an email from Ironman about another event, the 70.3 race in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Being of puertorican descent I knew I wanted to race there. I asked my wife if she were in for going to Puerto Rico and she said yes. Hence, I signed up in the airport while waiting for my plane to pull into the terminal. My second half Ironman 70.3 was on the schedule but I knew it was still almost a year away.
So, there I was, in April of 2011 and the next scheduled race was not until March of 2012 and for me that was almost too long to wait. I knew I was racing other Olympic distance events before that, but I wanted to try race a bit longer. For me racing the 70.3 distance was great but I felt going for the full Ironman distance was an even greater challenge. At that point I decided to prepare better and to stay close to home and registered for another half Ironman race, 70.3 Austin. I decided to train very hard for this event as it was my last triathlon of that year. Since I was close to Austin by living in Dalls, I took trips often to Austin and trained on the course there, studying and becoming familiarized with the course. I ended up crossing the finish line in 5:28 but I knew there was more I could do regarding performing much better, so I wanted to challenge myself.
March of 2012 finally rolled around and it was time to go to Puerto Rico. When I got to the island I was overwhelmed with joy. My father was born there, and my heritage is on this island. I wasn’t racing just for myself but honoring my family as well. The odd thing about this race was that it was to be a tune-up event for the Ironman Texas coming up later after that. I wasn’t used to just do tune-up races, but was hoping this would have been a good motivational event to prepare me for the Ironman. I rememebr, when the gun went off so did I, and before I knew it I was on the run course already, and it was hotter and more humid than I expected. I think I may have paid the price a bit due to weather conditions, but I finished in 5:29. I was not totally happy with the outcome but also knew Ironman Texas was just two months away so I needed to focus to achieve my set goals.
Again, before I knew it, I was racing with many others in my first full Ironman in Texas. The feeling was like no ther I have experienced. You work for months and months to reach that point and while you have all these ideas of what it is going to be like, you really have no clue. All throughout that long racing day I knew I would be an Ironman, and it came down to how fast was I going to race this course or deciding to maybe not pushing my body to its limits, since I was looking forward to many more finish lines to cross in the near future, and didn’t wanted to get injured.
I remember during the last portion of the run around mile 25 I saw my wife for the third time on the run loop run and told her I was ready to go to the finish line. I was hoping to see her at the finish because I did not wanted to do this on my own. To me, Karen was as much a part of this journey as I was. As I ran up the hill I saw all of my friends and they all had hands out to high-five and then strangers wanted to high-five me too. I felt like a rockstar and when I turned that final corner I knew it was going to be all over and the partying to start!
I must have stopped for a second to say hello to a friend when somebody yelled that I only had 20 seconds to cross before 12 hours. When I heard that I thought that finishing in 12 hours was great to accomplish my goal, so I ran up that hill and I let out a yell with a tremendous fist pump and then all the emotion took over and I jumped over the finish line and into the arms of a willing volunteer. After a few moments of talking and walking with the volunteer I found my wife at the finish line. She surely surprised me being there for me. At this point all the emotion spilled out of me, as I hugged her and told her we did it, that I loved her and then I started crying. The emotion of the day, the physical toll, the financial aspect of getting to this point all wrapped up in one tight hug with the only person I ever wanted to share this day with; my beloved wife.
After racing Ironman Texas in May, and holding onto the euphoria for as long as I could it was time to turn my focus to Ironman Arizona later in November. But before that, I wanted to participate in a ‘tune-up’ race first doing Revolution 3 in Maine in August. This was great as I was going to meet a lot of friends in Maine and being back on the east coast was exciting, which I had not been in nearly two years. I grew up in New York, therefore, going back East was something I was looking forward to. Despite a broken spoke on the bike which push me back a little, I was able to finish with my best timed run at the Half Ironma distance in Maine, so that gave me a boost and felt ready to tackle Ironman Arizona a few months after that in November.
I love the sport of Triathlon, especially the 140.6 distance and would love for everybody to experience the joy of training and crossing the finish line of one. Thanks to triathlon I am now leaner than I was back in college as well, I no longer drink alcohol and feel better than ever. Since deciding to forgo meat and alcohol from my system, I am feeling much better now. I have done races across the country including four Half-Ironman races in Oceanside, Austin, San Juan and Maine. These are all places I have had a chance to visit and enjoy thanks to the Half-Ironman distance. But it doesn’t stop there though. The full Ironman distances have taken me to to The Woodlands (Houston, TX) and Tempe, AZ to race the Ironman. Traveling was refreshing and I was fortunate to participate in all of those big events during the same year and am looking forward to doing Ironman Texas in May 2013 once again, becasue I am challenging myself to improve my own personal times. I feel the sport of triathlon gave me back my life and I am very thankful for it!