While on the plane to Europe I’ve been thinking of how I got to Philly from Sydney (2010) and how I’m flying out temporarily today. A lot of personal challenges and growing have happened in between and I do want to thank friends, family, and coworkers, whom have helped me tremendously during this time.

But I’m also grateful with other kind of people that I bumped into, and here they are:

Sargent Nate. Bootcamp at 6am on Rittenhouse square park was extremely challenging, particularly because my Mexican blood is not designed to exercise on extreme weather such as snow, ice or high temperatures (Mexico city is not in the middle of the desert, just in case that was your impression). Because of him and the team I started to like my new life in Philly and saw the city completely different to what I initially found coming from happy and very relaxed Australia. Starting the day exercising at a park in the middle of a big city was priceless, not to mention Sargent Nate’s philosophical reflection of life while cooling down.

Philadelphia School Of Circus Arts. The start of my aerial-circus career was remarkably successful. Thanks to bootcamp I almost had the required strength, my background in yoga contributed to have some flexibility, however my very strong long-distance running foundation did nothing to assist in developing this art. Still I had a great time in the playground of ropes, trapeze, and silk with my classmates, 95% of them were very flexible tattooed females, with more muscular mass than I ever dreamed of having at the time. Too bad my property manager rejected the idea of installing a trapeze from my high-ceiling loft, if that had come to fruition I would have certainly changed my professional career in no time.

Heather at Amrita Yoga. From all yoga styles I’ve tried mostly Ashtanga in California, Switzerland and Australia, none of which I was in love with simply because I sucked at all of them and saw no progress. Heather did a great job in combining some styles and making the class very challenging but doable with my background. She has a great approach which is not the gym instructor nor the -lets stay in the meditation cloud and don’t come down for 90 minutes- one. She is firm in correcting postures and gentle in guiding how to get somewhere. The class was a great workout in strength, flexibility and balance. So for me, two out of three ain’t bad!

Bicycle Club of Philadelphia. Great, after negotiating for weeks with Toby at Bicycle Therapy, I got a pricey new shiny full-carbon white Tarmac (road bike meant for racing), now, what do I do with it? Finding BCP changed my life completely. Because of the hours I wanted to sleep over the weekends I decided to skip the beginners level and ride with the intermediate-advanced group. My new friends Andy, Rebecca and others were great mentors in this sport, while the physical part was a challenge, my mind was busier than ever trying to learn all communication techniques and abilities used by the more experienced riders to be a good rider citizen. I got to know great areas of Pennsylvania and was impressed by how manageable was to go through long distances without sitting on an air conditioned 4 wheels-chimney.

Ride of Dreams. Shortly after I started riding with BCP, Barbara invited me to the RoD -a cycling trip that raised money to support disadvantaged kids to show them how to fix bikes, ride, and mentor other kids, through an organization called Neighborhood Bike Works-. This was a great idea to me: help kids, get to know new places, ride with friends, and get to see where my donated money went to. All these was too much for one thing. I got to meet Sheri whom did nothing for 12 months but organizing and coordinating all aspects of this trip (including the 45 degree uphills at 110F). After the first RoD the kids awarded me the Energizer Bunny diploma which I kept on my desk back in cubicle-land for a kick of motivation.

Fins Aquatic Club. Triathlons were always on my bucket list, but that is meant to be filled out when you are about to die, right? Well, I thought it was a good idea not to wait too long, just in case that day came soon. Despite my poor parents numerous efforts to take me to swimming practice as a kid, which in my world translated into one more torture in modern human history, I just never got the grasp of it. I advertised the idea along my athletic friends that I had some swimming technique and wanted to train for my first tri. Rebecca, Coralia, and others, recommended this club which is the only US Masters certified in Philadelphia. On my first practice Bob, the coach, puts me on the slowest lane (aka ‘martini lane’) and asked me to do ‘200 free’ “and we’ll go from there to start with the warmup” he said. Not only afraid of not been able to complete the 200 -no mater what the units were- I did not know that ‘free’ meant ‘free-style’, but then again I wasn’t sure what ‘free style’ was anyway. Afraid of getting the wrong style I did some strokes with my arms while out of the pool requesting his approval. He quietly and slowly glanced at me up and down as in assessing the risk he would take by allowing me jumping into his pool. He then said “yes”. My learning curve went surprisingly well, the coaching and the team were very helpful and after some months I was upgraded to the next level (aka beer lane). This was a great practice but an extremely hard 90′ non-stop workout. The team is also the only gay and lesbian US master club in Philadelphia but welcomes all walks of life as they did with my girlfriend at the time and myself. I would have a much harder time to complete a tri if it wasn’t because of them.

Mary Kelley at Aim4tri. 2012 was looking good, after completing my first triathlon, a sprint one in New Jersey (where I forgot to take my helmet off and ran with it for 1/2km) and the Philadelphia Olympic, I felt somehow lost in my training and wanted to get proper guidance for my 1/2 ironman in Poconos and the Acapulco Olympic. Mary was nice enough to take me in her team and coach me. We went through a long session of questions about my background in sports and what my goals were. She then made a daily plan which would be sent every midnight by email and be ready for me to open and fill out at the TrainningPeaks app for her to monitor. I felt I was back to school with a clear program and a daily homework as I had to write my comments on what I did. I’ll never forget when she asked me to ride at 95% of my maximum speed, -to me that is called sprinting and I was counting my breath-, she then casually rode to my side and started to fix my riding posture. Unfortunately I got injured during the 2012 Ride of Dreams and was not able to race at the 1/2 ironman but did get to do the Acapulco Olympic. Beside been an elite triathlete herself I really enjoyed the way she coached and all the helpful and useful tips.

Hands in Motion. No mater what you read on the reviews, Groupon is full of surprises, you basically get what you get. I had the smart idea of buying almost any available massage on their site and of course ended up with very mixed results. In fact, the mix was mostly composed by not very good ones. I came to Hands in Motion and I sticked to it for a while cause the massage was deep, focused and I did not have the busy street of Chinatown just next to me. Despite the drive, this was a great massage.

Thai Beauty Spa. No comments. Don’t ask, don’t tell!

Rachael Taylor. As posted earlier, this was a great surprise. I had a massage with her at Amrita yoga years ago when she was learning and kept her card somewhere. As I was moving out and selling my stuff, I found her email and contacted her again. She gave me a massage on my last day in Philadelphia at the friends house I was staying at and it was just the right time as the last days had been very stressful. She used Banyan Bala oil (one of the best Ayurvedic organic products) which is the same oil I’ve been using in preparation for this trip. Judging by her thin body I kind of predicted this to be a smooth gentle massage. I wasn’t wrong, but she also detected a lot of tension and worked on that long time which reminded me to a more sports massage where some shouting is involved but it did not get that far. This was a perfect massage in the sense that the products used were of the highest quality, I did not have to go anywhere, deep tissue but gentle, she stayed focused all the time, she used very effective techniques I never saw before, and I always had the impression she knew what she was doing.

Sheri Hanna. She fits in the friend and mentor category. After my last triathlon I decided that races were fun and motivating, but at some point I just wanted to do any exercise I felt like as long as I wanted without following a written program or ride. On one of our Max Brenner mutual therapies I mentioned her I wanted to not only ride for exercise but actually transport myself to a place through cycling. We kind of thought about going to Cape May for a weekend. She takes 12 months in planning the RoD, but that Cape May weekend was planned in about 12 minutes while we had breakfasts at Mugshots Cafe with our bikes and ‘luggage’ waiting outside to start the ride. Having crossed the US by bicycle she became my living encyclopedia for traveling by bike. Right after that trip to the beach I started thinking about a long distance trip, but I did not have the route nor time defined. Without Sherri’s crazy stories I can hardly see myself doing what I’m doing today.

Iñaki Alti. Also friend and mentor. He is better known in the US, Mexico, and Australia for being the guy who reached his back pocket to get what he thought it was an energy gel while cycling in the Philly triathlon, put it down into his throat, then realize it was actually laundry gel while emptying his stomach without loosing motion on his bike. (Iñaki, let me know if you feel uncomfortable and you want me to stop telling this story). Luckily he finished the triathlon alive with a very clean stomach. Early on 2012 he was the person who inspired me in doing triathlons. He also invited me motivated me to do the Camino de Santiago together. Unfortunately, now that I decided to do it he is no longer able to come, but at least he is picking me up from the airport and I will stay at his place for two nights before going to Roncesvalles.

I guess that’s it, these are the main people that had some impact in my last two and a half years in Philadelphia sport and life-wise.

Thanks to all!

Leave a Reply