Posted on June 01 2017
How I went from Zero Miles to BQ (Boston Qualifier)
If you read nothing else, read this. Because even if you don’t have your heart set on running Boston, these tips are what helped me shed over 20 pounds and 40 minutes off my 21K PR.
8 Tips To Lose Weight and Race Faster
- Be fearless. It's okay to begin wherever you are. The only way to know what you are capable of is to keep pushing until you pass that mental barrier that tells you to STOP.
- Be consistent. Set a goal, repeat your mantra and keep working hard because hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard enough!
- Hire a coach… someone you can trust with your life, because literally they will know everything about you… your dirty little secrets, eating habits, sleeping patterns, stress triggers. My relationship with my coach is just as important as my relationship with my partner. He knows my work load and when I get my period. A good coach will do all the math and planning for you so you just have to stick to the training plan to see results, and soon enough you’ll be motivated by your improvement.
- Keep a close eye on your nutrition. Following your training plan is key, but how you fuel determines your performance, recovery, rest and weight. By this I mean EAT YOUR GREENS. Add raw fruits and veggies. It also means you have to avoid alcohol and fast food. Your body is a machine, fuel it as best you can. Nutrition myths are really easy to come by so don’t go around doing every diet on the news… remember you are aiming for a lifestyle (long term) not a for summer body. (And watch Fed Up on Netflix if you have any questions of what processed food does to your body).
- Train your mind. Many races wont let you use music for safety reasons (all triathlons included). Teaching yourself to work out without music for races is also great because sometimes your best motivation are the people cheering (such as the 2 million spectators at the sidelines of the NYC Marathon).
- Hydrate your body. I don’t mean drink all the water in the world. Do drink proper amounts and also keep a close eye on your fruit intake as fruits contain water and minerals essential to your water absorption. Also, consider adding electrolyte drinks. My personal choice is Nuun Active Hydration, as it only has 10 calories per serving. You can also add sea salt or Himalayan pink salt to your food to replenish the minerals you sweat.
- Plan ahead. Make a list of all the races you’d like to do in your lifetime, than check your calendar, finances and plan to do at least one race that excites you per year… that way you’ll have one paid race ahead to keep you motivated.
- HAVE FUN. Remember to do one thing a day to nourish your soul and have fun – a strong mind and strong body go really well together.
How to start running
Like any teen going out of High School in to the first crazy years of college, I had a thing for parties and alcohol… but that first semester of college, demanding hours of study and a whole new scenery of possible dates, changed my game forever. I was a misfit in a world of late night drinks and careless grades at school.
At the middle of my first semester my brother proposed an adventure, to run a half marathon to celebrate the arrival of his daughter. I said YES, with no idea of what I was getting into. Six weeks after that hot day at the hospital, I was running my first Coban – circa 2009. That was the first time I flirted with my superhero alter ego who loved the rush of celebration, pain, pleasure and adrenaline.
That first year I ran several 21Ks: Coban, Las Rosas, La Ciudad, and probably something else. It also made me realize the lack of knowledge I had about training, nutrition and recovery. I decided to change my major and applied to the Nutrition School to gain a better understanding of nutrition and start preparing to become the athlete I am today.
Running my first marathon
In 2011 I decided to try the fearing distance of 26.2 miles. It was also then that I had my first injury: a back spasm that still reminds me of those hellish months training for my first marathon. That same marathon took a toll on my body and gave me plantar fasciitis. Have you had that injury? It’s a side effect of overtraining, wrong shoes, extra weight, and lack of stretching. I ran the race doped with a dose of runners’ high and finished with a 4:32:59 official time and a Long Island iced tea.
Disney Marathon was an eye opener though. I realized running wasn’t enough, so as I crossed the finish line I decided my next step was getting back on the water and saddle and do a triathlon but never forgetting about the greater goal to BQ. Long story short, I fell in love with the water again, and the bike became my favorite cross training.
My last year of college was way too demanding, hospital internship from 6:30am-3pm, afternoon class from 4pm-7pm and more hours of study and homework… so I basically I became a weekend warrior, only managing to get in a quick run or swim at night after class. My nutrition was a disaster, and to make it worse I got the Dengue Disease so I dropped a lot of weight and lost muscle… Basically when I got to my last internship in San Francisco, CA I was wearing 00 pants and looked really bad and out of shape. There I met a super Impala Runner, and now one of my good friends, Liz… she made sure I got all my weight back (and more) gaining like 15 pounds in two months and trying every possible restaurant worth my money and time. She also showed me the best trails in town and I ran the famous BAY TO BREAKERS Race, the oldest consecutive race in running history ( since 1912) - it even has a Guinness Record!
Hiring a Running Coach
I had the opportunity to cheer at the Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon, and decided right then and there to do the epic race at least once in my lifetime. God knows why, I got my lottery ticket for Alcatraz in 2015, the 35th edition of the race. That ticket changed my game forever. I bought a new bike, hired Coach Carlos Gruest (Swim America), and began my journey to become a serious athlete. My fear for that tri was the swim, because the bike course I had done it before and the run was (is) my strong leg. That famous swim from the Island across the Bay to SF is not famous for the names of the prisoners who escaped and died, but for the freezing cold temperatures, the constant change in tides and the freaking sharks. Go and try to explain to a rational human to swim those 3k and they’ll call you crazy. Well I am one of those crazy people.
Training with Carlos has been my best call when it comes to smart decisions… we make a great team. He has a lot of experience with triathletes. I mean, he was a triathlete, and has an Olympic daughter in the national Swim Team... What you can expect from him is a customized plan, according to your fitness level and goals. We have worked together for almost 3 years, and the results really do speak for themselves.
As evidence to his effectiveness was first and foremost the change in my fitness level, as shown by my weight, my splits on the track (oh how I´ve come to love the track), and the improvement in my half marathon times from a 1:55:43 in Max Tott 2015 to a 1:42:02 Max Tott 2017.
Qualifying for Boston Marathon
Back to the BQ…We did two 70.3 Ironman races before I got the guts again to run a marathon. Chance had it that my brother once again invited me to join him and his wife for Washington, and I welcomed the challenge and family trip. We began the training just a week after I came back from Boulder 70.3 Triathlon. We were something like two months into training when I analyzed my training data and it occurred to me that it was about time to try to BQ… so I told him “hey coach, do you think we can manage a time under 3:35:00 at the race?”… Guess what? He had planned my BQ before I even realized what he was up to.
I followed the plan, began dropping more weight, and got back on my habit of reading motivational books like Boston Bound, How bad do you want it? & Born to Run (for the 5th time). Training went according to plan for all 4 months, he gave me my race plan a couple of days before the marathon and it was my job and my will to deliver results.
The day before the marathon was a long one. We went to the expo and walked for hours, after that we had late lunch at a pizza place, then went back to the house and had dinner with the family: a beautiful salad full of colors and nutrients, pasta and chicken. We went to bed early, and woke up at 4 a.m. the next day, drove towards the Pentagon, and walked for a couple miles from the parking lot to the corrals. We waited a couple of hours until it was time to go to the starting line. I parted ways with my brother and walked on my own to the front of the corrals. It was hot for October. A guy passed out right by my side… it was chaos. But I was fixed on my goal so I moved somewhere trying to be alone to visualize my race plan, go out for the first km at 5:30min/km and the second kilometer at 5:15 min/km and so on, improving my pace with every passing kilometer.
Finally the gun went off and I started running. I felt strong, my pace was easy and my head was in the game. The first half of the race was beautiful, running through Georgetown and the Mall, passing in front of The Capitol, and the White House. The temperature was getting warmer and my playlist was working its magic (the 50 best songs of the moment playlist with Deezer app). The second half was a little boring, running around Cristal City and The Pentagon, and the last 3 miles of the race are crowd free because of the highways so this is where the mental toughness couldn’t fail me. To keep the goal in my head and ignore the pain in every muscle… finally the last mile came, and I saw my friend Sam cheering for me on the side of the road, there I got my second wind and kept pushing with everything I had until the last hill (HELL) before the finish line at the Iwo Jima Memorial.
My official time at MCM was 3:31:50, more than three minutes below the BQ time and right below the cutoff time of 3:32:50. I am damn proud of myself for pulling it off. I can’t describe the feeling of euphoria I felt when I stopped my Garmin and realized what this entailed. I accomplished what I had been working towards the last 8 years of my life.
And this story will continue after Boston 2018.