It is no surprise was my most productive year yet. There were many firsts. My first full Ironman( which was also my first marathon and first century ride), first 4-mile swim, first triathlon relay, first time at Kona, first podcast appearance, first appendectomy, and first red carpet event. Lots of highs and a few lows. But the big lessons were learned in between these big events. It’s easy to train when a race is around the corner. It’s much harder on a cold, winter morning when the sun won’t be up for another hour. Below is a list of my biggest takeaways from last year.
1. Find the way
To finish an Ironman, one needs to put in the training. That training takes time. To set Continue reading →
Twenty-one days for $21. I took a chance and bought in.
The practice of meditation and mindfulness is nothing new to me, but the consistent and daily implementation was lacking in my life. From what I know about behavioral psychology, having a financial stake in a given activity increases the odds one will value it more and use it. So will positive peer pressure and support.
Each day, Jess and Goldyn would post something new in the Facebook group. Every few days they would add a video explaining the importance of being mindful throughout the day and what it means to be fully present and experience each moment as it is happening. Jess and Goldyn also recorded guided meditations for us to try in order to get deeper into the practice.
Before we go any further, let’s clear up some of the confusion.
Racing the Ironman World Championship in Kona was, by far, the most difficult thing I have done since combat. That said, I would not trade the experience for the world. Ironman invited me as an ambassador, which included speaking on a panel to talk about how I went from a veteran with PTSD and severe alcoholism to competing in long-distance triathlons. Continue reading →
Today’s post is a short video on why I am here in Kona, Hawaii to race the 140.6-mile Ironman triathlon. Tomorrow I will embark on a 2.4-mile ocean swim, a 112-mile bike ride through the trade winds of the Kona coast, and finish with a 26.2-mile run through the lava fields. More than just a long day of endurance, I race for a purpose.
My phone alarm jolted me out of unconsciousness. It was race day. Strangely, I woke up feeling at peace. I had been training for almost a year for Ironman Santa Rosa. My first full Ironman. Still dark for a few hours, I turned on the lights and changed into my triathlon suit that had covered my frame through three Half Ironmans and a handful of shorter races. The race day checklist stared back at me from the breakfast table of my grandparents’ house. First on the list were affirmations. Stay grateful, let go of negativity, find steadiness in success and failures. Then I sipped my Green Shake, chocked full of vitamins.
I filled my water bottles and loaded the gear in my pack. My Iron-sherpa, Chris, started the truck. We were off. The drive to Lake Sonoma passed uneventfully as we talked over the steady pulse of my race day playlist.
Maybe I knew that today was more than just a race. Ironman Santa Rosa was a day to celebrate the journey of transformation that started five years ago when I started to face my PTSD head on in full sobriety; this triathlon was an opportunity for me to give thanks for my growth in Mind, Body, and Spirit. Or maybe my meditations and deep stretches had calmed me. Perhaps my body was also ready for the race, having gone through the race day morning rituals many times before. I reminded myself to let go of the outcome and simply be in the moment for each stroke, pedal, and stride. Like Mark Allen said, “transcend the numbers”. After all, whatever my finishing time, it would be a personal best.
Until Chaps connected with the right hook, I thought I was well-prepared for the interview.
Lindsey Schmidt from Ironman’s PR firm reached out a few months ago to say they heard my story. Ironman wanted to get me on a cool, new veteran podcast to talk about why I race. It would be a chance to talk about the Marines on my jersey that keep me moving towards the finish line. I agreed to do the interview. I wrote an eBook about the Mind, Body, and Spirit. Finally, a chance to talk to a larger audience about a great way to deal with PTSD!
The interview started out great (listen to it here). We talked about how I went into the Marine Corps, ditched the band and joined the infantry, and shipped out to Iraq. He asked me what house-to-house fighting was like in Fallujah. Chaps was there in 2007 and has walked the streets of the former Baath Party hub. And of course, we chatted about how triathlon has helped me deal with the demons of PTSD and turn it into something positive. So Chaps throws the verbal jab and I take the bait.
While a majority of my writing talks about the physical nature of endurance sports, that is only one third of the “three-legged stool.” I believe that balance in life involves attention to the Mind, Body, and Spirit.
Coming home from combat, many veterans talk about how they “came home a different person.” What does this mean? We may look and sound the same, but oftentimes the baptism by fire of combat changes us. We may see things that shatter our belief in how the world works. We might question our morals, our beliefs on right and wrong. It took many years to find myself again, but through the guidance of counselors, physical fitness, and a few spiritual teachers I was able to reconnect to my Mind, Body, and Spirit.
This eBook is free. No gimmicks, no catches. No credit card information or any of that stuff. Just download it and see if it resonates with you. Maybe it applies to aspects of your life. Maybe a friend of family member would benefit from it.
I caught up with Mike Mendoza, The Patriot Racer, last week as he recapped his performance at Ironman 70.3 Coeur d’Alene.
So first of all, how hot was it? I remember a couple years back the Coeur d’Alene full Ironman topping off at around 106º.
It was 92º, so a little on the hot side. But definitely not that bad, thank God.
How was it overall?
It was a good race overall.The bike was good, swim was good. I kept a 7:49 pace on the run, so not extremely fast. I’m still nursing my calf (from a strain a few weeks earlier).
What helps you when you have to run slower? How do you deal with it? Keeping that big picture in mind.
It’s tough, because running too slow you can injure yourself -but running too fast you can burn out. Im doing about 70%. The calf pain could come out of nowhere, like it did in Raleigh, so I know not to push it too hard even if I feel good in the moment. And I know that I’ve been able to keep pace with the other runners and catch them after a few miles when they’ve burned out. Continue reading →
“Wait a second, this isn’t sweat,” he thought. Mike Mendoza felt the hot blood running down his body and slowly began to realize he was wounded.
Mike had taken a grenade blast to the chest. Shrapnel had ripped through his body and punctured his intestines in multiple areas. With temperatures perpetually over 110º, he could be forgiven for mistaking a near-fatal wound for perspiration.
After what seemed like forever, the medevac extracted Mike and his sniper team to safety.
Mike was rushed to the Fallujah CAS then to Baghdad ER, where he underwent emergency surgery. During his surgeries and his movement from hospital to hospital, the Semper Fi Fund had quietly stepped in and helped his family. They paid expenses, including the costly phone bills incurred when Mendoza’s wife was constantly talking to doctors in Germany to check the prognosis and status of her wounded husband.
Earning his stripes
For his actions during a prior deployment to Iraq with 1st Recon Battalion, Mendoza was awarded the Navy Cross, second only to the Congressional Medal of Honor. His citation reads: