I started coaching Ricardo in March of 2020 before we fully understood the impact Covid-19 would have on the racing calendar. As the months progressed and the reality of canceled races began to sink in. Ricardo remained motivated to train hard without any races on the horizon. Ricardo lives in Guatemala City, Guatemala, where the average temperature is eighty-five degrees, so weather does not play a significant role in developing a yearly training calendar. The goal for 2020 was to build a huge base and maintain that base throughout the coming months and be aware of joint health during a non-racing year. From June to the end of September, Ricardo kept a CTL of one hundred and above. Because Ricardo lives in a valley surrounded by mountains, the only way out is to climb. It’s not uncommon for Ricardo to have 6,000 feet of elevation gain on a long Saturday ride. Ricardo can also crank out four-plus hours on the trainer with a smile.
Ricardo is a well-rounded triathlete and excels in the swim, bike, and run. Ricardo is what coaches call an easy athlete to coach. He does the workout on the calendar and never makes excuses such as my batteries are dead, my power meter is not working, or I forgot my watch. When he needs a day off, he takes it, but his work ethic and motivation inspire.
His 2020 Ironman was deferred to the 2021 Ironman Wisconsin, and after some time off, we were ready to get back to racing in 2021. As Ironman Wisconsin 2021, drew closer Ricardo was firing on all cylinders. One challenging component of Ricardo’s training is the limited number of triathlons in Guatemala. Wisconsin represented two years of hard training and his only A race of the season. We were both expecting a great result and a possible Kona slot.
A few weeks before the race, Ricardo was not feeling well and took a few days off, but we were not alarmed. Riccardo flew to Chicago on the Wednesday before the race and drove to Wisconsin a few days later. On race morning, I started to monitor Ricardo’s progress on Ironman Tracker, Ricardo came out of the water in 7th place in his age group. I was excited and waited with anticipation for his first bike split, his strongest discipline. When the bike split came in, he was off the pace, my first thought was he was having a mechanical, but by the second split, I knew something was wrong.
Ricardo later told me he had no power in his legs and could not eat or drink on the bike. His inability to eat and drink continued throughout the run and he only consumed an estimated 1,000 calories during the entire event. During the run, he had chills and asked his wife to get him a vest because he was freezing. The average temperature during Ricardo’s run was 70°. Ricardo suffered through the run but finished 29th in his age group. Below our expectations but a fantastic result under the circumstances.
Both Ricardo and I were disappointed, but at the same time, I was incredibly impressed with Ricardo’s desire and determination. Ironman Wisconsin was a very long and arduous day that pushed Ricardo to a very uncomfortable place. To this day, I have no evidence of why he had such a tough race. Since the race, we talked many times and have speculated on some of the issues that affected his performance.
I’m a firm believer that adversity makes us stronger not only on the racecourse but in life in general, so we learn from our challenges. When I first start to work with a new athlete, I ask them if they are afraid to lose? Because if you’re afraid to lose, you may never discover how far you can go. Ricardo raced at his fullest potential that day, he left nothing on the racecourse, and I’m proud to be called his coach. Ricardo will be racing IM Panama 70.3 on February 6th and a three-day mountain bike race March 3-5, 2022, and he is looking at several Ironman options for 2022.
Coach George Epley shares that "there’s nothing more rewarding than achieving that which once seemed impossible! Helping people get to that point is one of the things I love about coaching! My first commitment to an athlete is to optimize through customization. Each athlete has their own complex formula consisting of genetics, available training time and outside stress levels."