Since my last blog post aptly titled, “What’s Next” was written back in August of 2016, quite a lot has happened.
Clearly updating/maintaining this site with the blog posts/content I had intended were not one of the things that happened, however, I’m proud to read through my last post and report how the 5-10 year goal I wrote and the timeline I set are coming to fruition.
Love my job (& how part of it is working directly with startups and indie game dev studios)
Shoutout to Gainesville’s Chromatic Games & support their Kickstarter: HERE
Professionally, life really is awesome. Very lucky to have a great relationship with my manager and colleagues.
Personally, life has been OK. Throughout 2017 I knew something was different though I could not pinpoint exactly what felt off. It wasn’t until 2018 that truly slapped me in the face – and it was not my receding hairline…
It took me a few months to truly process everything that happened at Stoneman Douglas, months to realize the importance of community, and a deep conversation with a new friend to motivate myself to take action. (TLDR; Community is Important.)
The motivation/idea that sparked this post came from a message I received on LinkedIn about speaking at a pretty cool event in San Francisco (see image).
“Avant-garde experience in SF… This is the 4th of 50 that we are going to do this year in cities around the world… 4 highly successful executives-by-day are invited to be storytellers-by-night…You’ll have a chance to tell a 5 minute never-before-told story.”
Of course this sounded awesome, though I needed to think of a ‘ 5 minute never-before-told story’. If we have ever met, you know that my stories usually take forever, and that I enjoy sharing my good (debatable) stories with anyone who has the patience to listen.
Though I did not share this story with others at the event, I believe it is a message worth sharing to those open to hearing it, and I am ready to share.
I was lucky for the first 20 years of my life to have never experienced loss of anyone I was close with. Sure, I knew people who passed away, though it was never anyone in my friends group or close relative.
Saturday evening, the second week of January 2015. I was in a hotel room with my mom the night before running the Disney Marathon when I remember getting a few texts from his roommate asking if I had heard from him or knew where he was. Didn’t think anything about it until I got back to Gainesville and learned Jerry DeClasse had been in a coma at UF Shands following a hit and run. I had lunch with him a few days before and everything seemed normal.
The strangest feeling, was the realization of how close he and I had become since starting at UF two years prior. The realization he was my best friend. There were a few news articles about the incident painting a horrible picture of him based on the location of town he was in and the color of his skin. Not only were police asking me to describe him as I knew him, but his parents were asking me the same questions since I knew him more than any other. I’ve never had to attend a funeral before, let alone be asked to speak at one. It really messed me up.
I did, and although I still feel waves of emotion, I’ll never forget those who reached out just to say hi and let me know they were there if I needed anything. The circumstances of the shooting at my high school were dramatically different. The San Francisco/Bay Area is physically one of the farthest places in the US from my home.
After living here for over a year, the “friends” and the people I hung around were cool, interesting and nice people, though they really weren’t there for me when I needed them. It took me time to process exactly what had happened at Stoneman Douglas High School, though it didn’t take me much longer to realize I didn’t have the same support group or community I needed.
There is never a good time, or a right way to reach out to someone after something traumatic happened. There is never (or should never) be any expectation that people should/would reach out to ask for or offer support. The reality is, people don’t know how certain things affect others or how to react when something serious does happen. The best thing to do, if anything (in my opinion), is to reach out so say “Hang in there, I am here to talk if you need someone.”
I’ll never forget the VP I support at Intel approached me the next day in the Cafe, sat down and spent a few minutes simply making sure I was OK. That was one of the most impact moments in my time so far at Intel, and he is one of the major reasons I accepted my job & continue to work here.
In contrast, One of the people I thought was the closest friends I had out here did reach out after everything happened – around a week after.
I know at UF, I had a reputation for being the entrepreneurship/business guy who was happy to help or connect you with someone. As she knows, I still very much am that guy who is willing to help or provide perspective.
This is the message was my way of giving off a sign really asking for help and someone to talk with. Without knowing context, it may not read as desperate as I was when I wrote it.
We did make plans. Plans that one of us forgot about.
Yes, they could have been more solid or specific. I could have reached out to confirm. I didn’t. Her not remembering the plans we made even after she said she put it in their calendar was all I needed to not reach out again. I haven’t since, and aside from a random, impersonal message on snapchat, I can’t remember the last time I saw her or others in the group we were in.
I did it to myself. It is/was a immature. I do not regret it. Why waste time always being the person reaching out to everyone who never reach out to you? I was that guy and I hated it. I still hate it. If someone else values the relationship, and you live close enough to get together every once in a while, there shouldn’t be any excuse to reach out and say hello. This person and I live five minutes from each other and what could have been an awesome friendship isn’t due to a lack of empathy and EQ.
Over the last year – I have made a real effort to do some introspection, attempting to understand why I was unsuccessful in cultivating the right community here in the Bay Area, even comparing it to what I was doing in Florida that organically cultivated a strong community without even thinking about it.
In a uniquely, uninhibited conversation with a new friend, Carolina, the first answer appeared. A couple months later at a Meeting of the Minds, (led by Jared, one of the most amazing people I know) some of the strangest ‘synchronicities’ revealed another. Along this personal journey, I realized the importance of vulnerability in connection. It may be the California life rubbing off on me, though I’ve had more transformative, stimulating conversations in the last few months than I can remember having in the last few years. I also realized that since moving to California, I had stopped hosting events or organizing activities like I used to in Florida. I’ve been waiting for invitations from others or going to other events/activities hosted by others.
In the last 8 months, I’ve hosted a number of potlucks and picnics across the Bay Area. These events are invite only, sent to people I know and want to get to know more via personal texts and FB messages. The coolest part is that the people I’ve invited wanted to re-connect with others they met at one of my previous events, so I created a private FB group that you only get invited to once you attend one of the events and show interest in joining. It is intentionally a small group right now and I’ll continue to focus on cultivating this community into something special.
As it grows, There will be events organized exclusively for people who have previously attended one of the community’s potluck or picnic events along two main focus areas: Personal Connection & Professional Development. Professionally, we organize events/activities focused on helping others grow their companies, in their jobs, or build an idea. Personally, we host curated gatherings structured to establish, strengthen, and grow relationships with yourself and others in the community.
Valentines Day Weekend, the anniversary of the shooting, I hosted one of the most unique events yet, calling it a ‘Thought-luck’ (name still WIP) focused on the personal connection pillar. Due to coordinating holiday weekend schedules, I hosted two, limiting the number of attendance for each. Without going into too much detail, we spent hours really getting to know each other through sharing stories and experiences many of us haven’t even told family.
Taking it back to how this all started, The event in San Francisco that inspired this post was one of the best experiences I’ve had living in the Bay Area so far. I’m still keeping in touch with a few of those new friends I had met through that event. Some of their stories were incredible as well!
As for what’s next for me at this point? I’m looking forward to finishing my 2nd semester of MBA life this week, GDC at the end of the month, and excited to continue hosting some more amazing Potlucks & Picnics and make the most of this amazing Spring weather.
Around 16 years of structure, safety, and guided advising are now behind myself along with all those who graduate every semester. We are released into the wild with wide-eyed dreams, goals and expectations of ourselves in a much more realistic perspective in our (hopefully) matured minds. Although many of our dreams of becoming Olympic Racewalkers or Rhythmic Gymnasts may not come true at this point our lives (both are actual Olympic sports), we all have to move on at some point to figure out what is next.
The answer of what my plans were after graduation has always been stuck between three serious options:
Each option had their own pro’s and con’s. Each one appealed highly to who I am and who I want to become.
5-10 Year Goals: Run or Manage a (Corporate) Business Accelerator; Continue growing Hopping 4 A Cure
Hopping 4 A Cure is my baby. I will not let it flounder stop without serious help and dedication. Following a recommendation to read the book ‘Good To Great‘ by my mentor/friend Julian, I became somewhat obsessed with becoming this Level 5 Leader and how to leave an organization in the hands of people who will make it better than when you left. Graduating would ultimately end my run of President of the Hopping 4 A Cure at UF Student Organization, however I do not think I could ever drop my involvement with everything and move on so quickly.
The idea of an MBA has always been in the back of my mind through conversations with family and older friends. It wasn’t until a conversation with a couple high-level execs during my time at Walt Disney World where I learned how important the MBA can be in a corporate environment, and potentially even a detriment in certain startup/entrepreneurial environments.
As an involved business major at UF, I was not as worried about being employed after my 4 years but rather who I would be employed with and what I would be doing in that company. I was lucky enough to develop relatively deep relationships with a couple recruiters in a number of companies that hire large amounts of UF Business Graduates and even though I knew those companies weren’t what I was looking for, some of them weren’t afraid to tell me flat out ‘You do not want to work for us’ or a variation of ‘You won’t have enough autonomy/freedom to be entrepreneurial with us’ ( thank you to those recruiters if any of you are reading this post). That said, I was open to working with a large corporation as long as I am in a position outside my comfort zone where I’d be learning about an area of interest that can add value to myself, my future, and potentially Hopping 4 A Cure. The location also played a huge factor in this option.
When it came to working with another startup ‘full time’, an option I heavily weighed, the major roadblock became where to draw the line between working on/with a startup company whose mission/vision/product I believed in and working on Hopping 4 A Cure. At the end of the day, I did not want to feel guilty about working on my own ‘Startup’ and promoting that more at events than a friend’s company. I simply did not want to blur lines and wear too many hats in multiple small organizations.
To anyone looking for a job, I do HIGHLY recommend looking into Gainesville Startups!
Feathr is looking to hire Intelligent Humans #16 – #20
Until this point I have only told some friends & family about my plans and potential offers/options I had to pick between and I am glad to share with the world and inter-webs that I will be joining the Intel Corporation, based in Santa Clara California, in October reporting to a Marketing Manager, on a team creating new stories of why millennials would/should buy new technology platforms, specifically 2 in 1 laptops.
Intel has been going through a major restructuring process and many of the friends I’ve made during my internship last year have been let go, however I’ve been keeping up to date on what the future looks like for the company/industry as a whole and Intel looks to be making smart decisions in the areas of Augment
ed Reality, Virtual Reality, and Internet of Things.
With the long-term goal of running or managing a Business Accelerator (preferably corporate like the Disney Accelerator), this position allows me to truly dive into the tech space, giving em the opportunity to learn as much as possible, meet incredible individuals, and relocate me to the heart of Silicon Valley.
I officially move out to Santa Clara and start my job on October 10th!
Between now and October, I will be embarking on an AWESOME adventure through South and Central America. As I mentioned in a post from January called, ‘How 2015 Sucked & Why I’m Excited For 2016‘ I listed 6 countries to visit and I’ll be knocking 2 of those out in the next 2 months while adding in a couple along the way!
If ANY of you reading this would like to meet up or join me on a portion of the trip, you are more than welcome! If you or anyone you know have family or a place I could stay during any part of this trip, please, please, PLEASE reach out and let me know!! Any help or support would greatly be appreciated.
As Numbered Above:
San Andres & Providencia, Colombia
Los Angeles, CA
Santa Clara, CA
My plan is that I really do not have a plan. All I know is that I have a plane ticket leaving Florida on Monday August 22nd for Colombia where I’ll be meeting up with one of my best friends, Connor, who has lived in Colombia for almost a year. (If you ever want to learn Spanish, Connor learned the language in ONE MONTH and now runs a company offering UNLIMITED Spanish tutoring for $99/Month – https://baselang.com/ )
Next, I leave Colombia for Costa Rica. In Costa Rica I may meet up with a couple friends friends but will primarily be finding a beach and living like the locals in an Airbnb or Couchsurfing location.
Following Costa Rica, I go north into Honduras where I reconnect with some friends I made during my internship at Disney and potentially meet up with a friend from Gainesville to celebrate his birthday and Honduras’ Independence Day!! Can’t wait to go Scuba Diving, Zip Lining, and chasing waterfalls even though the 90’s girl group, TLC, has warned all of us already..
I’ll end the Central American stretch of the trip in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and potentially Mexico City if possible. I’d love to explore the ruins and learn about the old civilizations that inhabited that area. Maybe I’ll see a live viewing of Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto while I’m there! (Only joking..)
Wherever I am the first week of October is where I’ll be taking a flight back into the US and spend a few days with my brother in Los Angeles before I drive up the Pacific Coast Highway and begin my job in Santa Clara!
In total, the whole trip will last around 6 weeks, include at least 4 countries, and many awesome stories to share. Hopefully I’ll be able to pick up Spanish finally after years of classes in High School..
Thank you for reading! If you would like to meet up before I leave on my adventure, for any portion of my trip, or once I arrive in California, PLEASE let me know!! I’d be more than happy to say hello and reconnect!
Since we hosted the first Hopping 4 A Cure Hopscotch Tournament in 2011, we have seen a steady growth of the organization which now has 3 Chapters across the state.
Our Hopscotch Tournaments are the core of our organization, the focus of each calendar year and semester schedule at the University level. Hopscotch Tournaments are our primary source of dollars raised to follow our mission of helping those who are diagnosed with or affected by Multiple Sclerosis on a personal level through College Scholarships and Alternative Medical Research.
When compared to one of the most popular fundraising events most large nonprofits organize, a 5K, a Hopscotch Tournament is able to be organized with less than half the time, less than half the overhead, and still able to ask for roughly the same donation price to participate. To put this into perspective, our main expense as a nonprofit are event T-shirts.. Our second is Chalk. We are also able to provide more value to each participant through other recess games and competition like Hula Hooping, Jump Rope, 4 Square, Basketball/Knockout, Football, Ultimate Frisbee and more depending on the facility we are hosting the event and it’s resources.
All that said, I knew we were not fundraising enough or making enough money from each event to truly accomplish our goals and reach our vision. For each event, Sponsors would be providing the majority of our dollars fund-raised which would have also covered the cost of shirts and then some, so by the time an individual donates to participate, 100% of their donation goes straight towards the cause instead of covering the cost of shirts. Although we have never lost money on a Hopscotch Tournament before, we weren’t making a whole lot either.
I started looking into other successful philanthropies on campus at the University of Florida and through comparing organizations and best practices practices, it was clear what needed to change. We had a situation where we asked a college student to donate/pay a set amount to participate in an event that they are:
Unsure exactly what a Hopscotch Tournament is/what other activities there are outside of Hopscotch
Has very little social value to be associated with (yet) like Dance Marathon
No one in their friends group has ever participated in before
The most important point I mentioned wasn’t even on a bullet point above.. The most important point was that we were asking college students to donate/pay!
Intrigued? Think about the traditional stereotype of today’s college student. What do you see? Student loans, minimum wage jobs, increasing tuition/costs of books, etc?
Now, let’s take Dance Marathon (as mentioned above) as our primary example and think about how the University of Florida chapter has been ridiculously successful in fundraising upwards of 2 Million dollars in one year!! $2,434,315.18 to be exact.
According to their website, Dance Marathon at UF has over 800 participants (Dancers) who stay up for 26.2 hours raising money ‘For The Kids’ (FTK). Since the Dance Marathon chapter started at UF 22 years ago, they have raised over $12.4 million making them the ‘most successful student-run philanthropy in the southeastern United States’.
What makes Dance Marathon so successful? Did each of their 800+ Dancers donate/pay over $3000 PER PERSON to reach the incredible $2.4 Million in 2016? Well, kind of.. although there are WAY more than 800 individual people donating money to Dance Marathon at UF, the real key is how Dance Marathon has such a large number of organizations across campus who sign up as many members as possible through an online platform and ask them to fund-raise themselves, asking others (friends/family) to donate/pay. Due to the popularity that has grown for the event over the past two decades, the exclusivity of being a Dancer forces Dance Marathon Organizers to limit participating individuals per organization which usually results in a competition internally to see who can fund-raise the most within the organization in addition to which organization overall fund-raised more that another externally.
What does Hopping 4 A Cure need to do in order to help more people with Multiple Sclerosis, spread more awareness, and raise more money? The answer is simple. Change our model from that of a 5K to one where participants can raise money themselves instead of donating/paying out of their own pocket. This would allow students to participate in our Hopscotch Tournaments for FREE (potentially) as long as they are able to raise the minimum ticket price of $20. If they are unable to raise all or most of it, then they just have to bring the remainder of the $20 to the event.
We will include an incentives program as well! The more money you raise, the more ‘Swag’ you get! Beyond simply raising money to get in, you will now be competing to raise more money than others with incentives like top 50 fundraisers get shirts, top 20 receive glasses, top 10 receive backpacks, and top 5 receive their own Customizable Hopscotch Grid!
Student organizations will also have incentives for signing up. We will give out awards for most people signed up, most spirited, and obviously most money fund-raised. The top 3 fundraising organizations will have their logo on the back of our shirts as well!
My assumptions and though process proved to be more than correct while I was attending UF’s Relay for Life in April, which just so happened to be the day before the Hopping 4 A Cure Hopscotch Tournament. As I was walking around catching up with friends and making small talk (something I actually enjoy a lot), I began asking a few of them if they were affected by the cause and how much they raised. These are common questions I’ve heard people ask before. The responses varied although one stood out from a friend I’ve known since freshman year.
Me: “Are you affected by the cause personally?”
Me: “Would you mind sharing how much you raised?
Her: “I passed my goal of $100 and raised over $300!!! 😀 How is Hopping 4 A Cure?”
Me: “Congratulations, that’s awesome! Hopping 4 A Cure is going well. Our Hopscotch Tournament is tomorrow, you should come out and say hello!”
Her: “Nice, how much is it?
Me: “$15, and you’ll receive a FREE shirt in addition to other prizes, plus participation in all recess events“
Her: “$15?? ehh, that’s a lot..“
After that conversation, I became more motivated than ever to make the change for Hopping 4 A Cure, and I am proud that within 3 months later.. The Summer Hopping 4 A Cure Hopscotch Tournament at the University of Florida will be suing a new platform where individuals and teams/organizations can sign up for free, have their own fundraising page, and raise as much money as they can!
After discussing with my team about incentives for everyone to fund-raise, they decided that I Will Die My Hair Orange and blue for Graduation pictures If Hopping 4 A Cure reaches it’s goal of $2,000 with at least $750 coming from my personal fundraising page. Do you want me to follow through with that? DONATE BELOW OG Hopscotch Crew on Crowdrise
It had some of the highest highs, but the lows were, well.. low. The way it started is a prime example of the massive oxymoron of a year I’m referring to.
2015 had all the ingredients for the most exciting and fun year that I’ve been building up to for many years.
Hopping 4 A Cure was set to host our first Hopscotch Tournament at Florida State University (FSU)
I just finished up an Internship with Disney in Orlando (my first Corporate Internship)
Signed up to run my first Full Marathon since High School with an IRONMAN in sights
I was running almost every organization at UF that I had wanted to since I stepped foot on campus
My 21st Birthday was right around the corner (Although I never cared to drink much anyways)
I left Disney the first weekend of the year and returned to UF for a short week before returning to race in the Walt Disney World Marathon (January 11th, 2015). In that short week, I welcomed the 3rd class of the Innovation Academy to the University of Florida, moved into 406 in Beaty West for my second year of being an RA, and on Wednesday I had lunch with a great friend who I haven’t seen since I crashed on his couch for 3 weeks before officially starting my internship in Orlando.
Usually when we met up for food, it would be at Broward Dining Hall (Fresh Food Co.) on campus, but for whatever reason I recommended we meet at the Chic-Fil-A right next to it. When we got there I didn’t even feel like eating but he still bought a chicken sandwich and waffle fries. I felt bad since I recommended it. We talked about projects and plans we had for the next year. He had plans to focus his energy on a few of the many ‘Lifestyle’ Twitter accounts he owned into all out web-based businesses to try and expand his expertise beyond just Social Media. In most of my conversations I was always glad I was friends with him. Felt like I was smarter by association and believed he was one person I’d be saying ‘I knew him when..’ in however many years it was until he was a huge success in whatever he pursued. We said goodbye and went our separate ways, I went to Beaty, he said he was going to the Library or somewhere near Turlington.
That was the last time I spoke with my friend, Jerry DeClasse.
Friday night on my ride down to Orlando for the Marathon, I received multiple texts and a phone call from his roommate, Erick Rodriguez, expressing concern on Jerry’s Whereabouts and recent activities since it has been a few hours since he had come home. I figured it was a Friday night and his phone may have been off or not with him. I tried calling and texting but no answer. Not thinking much of it, I continued to the Hotel where I met my mom for the race.
Picked my packet (bib, shirt, etc.) up on Saturday. Since I only had audiobooks and forgot to put music on my iPhone 4 before I left Gainesville, I stayed up a lot later than I should have Saturday night saving music for the run.
Just after 11, I received a call from an unsaved number on my cell. It was a man with a thick accent asking for me, and proceeded to tell me that he was Jerry’s father. He asked about Jerry’s personality, if he ever used any drugs, or how he acted in any of my recent interactions with him. I answered as honestly as I could – Jerry was as straight edge as me when it came to Drugs and Alcohol, and outside of our lunch I only said hi to him for a brief moment at the ‘Launch Into IA’ event welcoming new IA freshman as we were both Ambassadors for the program.
Mr. DeClasse then shared that he was calling from the hospital in Gainesville and Jerry was staying the night.
Still not thinking too much into it, I had my mom in my other ear reminding me I needed to get some sleep before the Marathon which was only a few hours from then.
A photo posted by David Nassau (@thedavidnassau) on
Had a nice race and took many pictures with characters before I headed back up to Gainesville that night for classes on Monday. On my way back, I spoke with Erick about Jerry and what had happened. He said Jerry had been hit by a car, had a broken leg and a concussion but everyone was staying positive.
Monday after class, I limped to my car wearing my Marathon Medal and drove to visit Jerry in the Hospital’s ER (wearing the medal and event shirt of the race the following Monday is a tradition I’ve kept from my friend, Alex, since my first race in 2011). As I drove up to the ER’s Valet, I contemplated wearing my medal into the Hospital to show Jerry and make some sort of joke as I imagined we’d both be limping around obviously severely underestimating the severity of the situation. Before I handed the keys off, I made a game time decision not to wear the medal into the hospital to be safe since I didn’t want to show off in front of the other patients and be ‘That Guy’.
The lady at the desk of the ER said he had actually been transferred to another room of the Hospital outside the ER on the 3rd floor in another wing.
I was allowed to enter the area after being cleared by some of the nurses and then met Jerry’s Dad for the first time. He continued clarifying my answers over the phone from the other night then led me to Jerry’s room.
Still, I was completely oblivious as to what I was literally walking into.
Please skip to next line break to avoid potentially graphic descriptions
The dimly lit room sounded with soft religious music from Hatian/Creole origins. Jerry’s mom was sitting next to the wall on the left and his aunt (if not his aunt, it was his mothers’ friend from church) was on the opposite side of the bed holding a very inflamed right hand, reading /singing out of a book to Jerry and hoped he could hear their voices – as if words were beyond his comprehension.
His hand and wrist were swelled to almost double the size I remember them, and his head/face were puffy as well. I could see visible marks on the top left of his head but was unsure if those were caused by the accident or the doctors. He was hooked up to a lot of machines that monitored everything, some I’m sure were assisting him breathing to keep oxygen circulating and maintain any brain function that was left.
Jerry was in a coma. If he were to survive, he would be severely brain dead with minimal chance of leading a normal life again.
They all said I could say hi and talk with him privately if I’d like, figuring it would help if he heard someone else’s voice to stimulate more brain function.. I couldn’t find any words and cowardly stood there speechless.
I’ve never been close to anyone who had been in such critical condition. It is a surreal experience that I obviously do not wish on anyone else.
What confused me even more is how I believe I was the first and only person outside of his roommates who had visited him or even known that he was in the Hospital! Jerry’s local priest/religious leader was there with the family and was talking as if Jerry had already died – I was pissed with the guy and although I answered his questions about setting up a memorial event on campus plus a fundraiser for Jerry on campus, I couldn’t help but feel disdain for this seemingly nice douchebag. My friend was still breathing 10 feet away from us! That conversation was a little premature for me, but again, I was the first friend there.
Leaving the hospital, I couldn’t think of how to act. I thought the world would stop for a moment to let me understand the situation, but time keeps on moving.
Jerry DeClasse passed away January 17th, 2015.
I do want to give a special thanks to Dr. Citty and the Innovation Academy Office who visited Jerry every day once they found out he was in the Hospital. They gave his family care baskets and spent hours with the family showing support.
I’d consider myself an outwardly happy person who knows a lot of people and who a lot of people know, especially in Gainesville. Although I have a stupid 3,512 ‘friends’ on Facebook, and a couple hundred acquaintances at UF/in Gainesville, I’ve only truly considered one person a ‘Best Friend’ and only a small, select, specific few close friends. Although Jerry was not who I considered my ‘Best Friend’, looking back he was that and more – I spent almost everyday with him Sophomore year and we connected in mindset, interests and work ethic. Even my ‘Best Friend’ and I do not relate or connect in those areas.
Joni Mitchell’s lyric ‘You don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone’ is surprisingly applicable and so true.
I’ll always remember the awesome times Jerry and I had from staying up until morning scheming up money making opportunities, to tag-teaming Gainesville Startup Hours, while practicing our Les Mis duet ‘Confrontation’ with plans to burst out in song at a Startup Hour soon after watching Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segel performing it on ‘Inside The Actors Studio’.
Spring 2015 continued, and although things didn’t get worse, Summer began with the passing of another friend and leader in the Gainesville community just after my 21st birthday.
I read about Josh Greenberg and Sam Tarantino long before I shared the same room with either of them. My relation to Josh was not more than casual conversations about business and life but he was always there if I needed help or advice. Grooveshark shutting down only a few months before he died wasn’t positive for anyone close to him or the Gainesville community. The speculation and coincidence of his timely passing only made conversations a bit more depressing.
My grades were the worst they’ve been since High School and mentally I wasn’t enjoying my time as much as I had hoped. Plus I hadn’t been training for my IRONMAN almost at all until that point.
The Internship offer from Intel provided some much needed positivity. Although I knew my training would be much better if I stayed in Gainesville and been an RA in the new Infinity Hall, it was an easy decision to move to Santa Clara in the heart of Silicon Valley.
Without going into much detail on my internship (I’ll write about that soon..), I learned the guy who was going to be my boss, the man who interviewed and hired me, actually left the company for Google only two weeks before I started!
My new boss was a great guy but I had a feeling he wasn’t sure what my role was supposed to be or how to fill my time everyday. He was still transitioning as well into a new position.
That said, my first few weeks were real rough and I wasn’t enjoying my time. The added fact that UF was having an amazing Football year was just the icing on the cake to my 8+ hours a day sitting at a cubicle looking for cool things to do and events to attend to make the most use of my time.
As the internship progressed, I understood the conversations had in the meetings I attended, and began carving out a nice job/workload that my boss ended up giving me to do. People like my new friends Danny and Shirley were crucial to my success at Intel.
During my time at Intel, yet another friend and Gainesville community member Devon Grimme passed away. Another shocking, unexpected, horrible accident.. I do not know much about the details since I was not in Gainesville but I will miss him sincerely.
5 months later and I’m working part time for Intel in Gainesville for another month or so while Interviewing people to take over my position when my internship is ‘over’ (which is whenever they are hired..).
The highest points of 2015 came with the time I spent with my brother in California and on our road trip back to Florida. We had some crazy adventures and stories that we can finally laugh at although some of the situations we found ourselves in were not the most comfortable or ‘traditional’ to say the least.. (Some of those stories I’ll write about as well..).
So far, 2016 has been amazing. Finishing the road trip with a night in Tallahassee with my best friend Gary was fun. Now I’m back in the swing of things being an RA in Beaty East for the 4th and 5th floors.
Every year since 2013, I’ve been in the Hospital for at least one night within the first two weeks of January. This year seems to have broken that trend!
Over the past few days, Trevor Abbott and Aidan Augustin hosted an awesome potluck/cookout for the Gainesville Startup Community, my favorite event of the year! (so far.. 😉 ) I Celebrated the birthdays of my old Roommate, Pablo, and my great friend, Hammaad. I’ve even begun organizing our next Hopping 4 A Cure tournament with our UF team.
Being back in Gainesville, reconnecting with so many cool people, and simply living life as a student again is nice.
Later this year, I’ll have to take the GMAT and apply to MBA programs. Ideally, I’d like to take the next year off and travel if all goes well, then start into an MBA program when I return. I’ve already started making a list of countries and people I’d like to meet up with and visit. Here’s a short list:
Thailand (Southeast Asia)
Let me know if you’d like to join for a few days/weeks! If you’d like to host and be a personal tour guide, please let me know and I’ll try and make it to wherever you are!!
As far as my new years resolutions..
I am going to invest in the relationships I have and try to connect with some new awesome people.
If you are reading this and we haven’t talked in a while.. please message me and let’s set up some time to talk – I’ve been meaning to catch up!
I will spread Hopping 4 A Cure to at least 1 more school/community
If you know anyone interested or are interested yourself in getting involved with Hopping 4 A Cure, let me know!
I will have as much fun as possible
This is not trying to be forced, but by trying new things and saying ‘yes’ to new adventures, I’m excited for what this year can bring with graduation around the corner.
Thank you for reading this post, I know it may not have been easy however I felt the need to write it all down and read somewhere it can be therapeutic to express myself through writing like this. Blog posts may not be ideal but I’m writing these more for me than anyone else and since my handwriting ‘peaked in 5th grade’ according to my FB status this week, I probably won’t be able to read anything I write 10/20+ years from now.
As I mentioned before, I’d love to reconnect with friends reading this – even to those who I do not know, please say hello! I am easy to get a hold of with all this social media..
One year after my frantic extravaganza to register for the Florida IRONMAN, race day was finally here. Months of preparation, planning and growing excitement/anxiety. November 7, 2015: Race Day.
3:00A.M. – Bells sound from my phone. It was early, the transition area opened up in an hour, and I felt surprisingly calm. Packed what I needed in my white ‘Morning Clothes’ bag, had some oatmeal with a bagel and my mom dropped me off in front of the IRONMAN village where I would join the other 3,000 Athletes set up and make final arrangements for their race.
4:00A.M. – Body markings to enter transition area. Age on left Calf, Bib Number on Shoulders. The blue IRONMAN wristband allowed me access to my bags and bike where I placed the bagels I made in both my T1 (Swim to Bike) and T2 (Bike to Run) transition bags, along with any Cliff Bars or GU’s I had brought with me to Panama City.
The big announcement everyone wanted to know was the temperature of the water to decide on if we were going to wear a wetsuit or not.
Wet suits are prohibited with temperatures over 76.1 degrees Fahrenheit (24.5 degrees Celsius).
Athletes who choose to wear a wetsuit in water temperatures above 76.1 degrees Fahrenheit (24.5 degrees Celsius) will not be eligible for awards, including World Championship slots.
Full wetsuits are permitted (arms and legs covered).
In my 3 years of Triathlon, I have never used a wetsuit, nor did I ever buy one.. Until the Wednesday night before I left San Francisco! Although it is a HUGE ‘no-no’ to buy a wetsuit and use it for a race, I knew it would be better to have the option, trying to be safe than sorry. Plus, a wetsuit typically helps keep the body more buoyant allowing a faster swim time – which is nice.. That said, I did break it in a little bit during my swim the day before.
Official Water Temperature: 77.1 degrees Fahrenheit (one degree above a ‘wetsuit legal’ temperature)
Now a Game-time Decision had to be made.. Do I man up and race without a wetsuit in hopes of placing in my age group and/or qualifying for Kona (IRONMAN World Championships)? Or do I suck it up, wear my wetsuit and take the opportunity to help myself out on the swim while hoping not to create any rashes/blisters wearing the new suit for what I estimated could be around 2+ hours.
I sucked it up.. After much delineation and discussion with other athletes I figured wearing a wetsuit could only help, and although it would be nice to place in my age group or even qualify for Kona, my goal was to finish, not necessarily to come in first. (For now)
6:00A.M. – Transition area already closed, and we are Fifteen minutes away from the official race start, plus an additional 15 until the athletes wearing wetsuits start.
As I make my final adjustments to my wetsuit, I decide to go to the bathroom and pee/poop out whatever I could before I waste time for bathroom breaks during the race, or potentially even worse: in my wetsuit! Once the zipper is pulled up the back of the wetsuit and I am in the water, I’ll pretty much be swimming in a body condom, and whatever is released on the inside pretty much stays there until you take it off or shake it around a lot.. This was my second time peeing before the race – I had a feeling I would be needing a port-o-potty during the bike to ’empty my colon’ since it was not cooperating prior to the swim start.
6:25A.M. – Made my way to the swim start. It was a rolling start where you grouped yourself with swimmers who planned on finishing around the same time as you. I purposely was in the back on the right.
Pro Tip: Back right is the best spot for beginner swimmers as races typically turn left and fast swimmers hug the inside left of the start for the shortest distance swim
6:30A.M. – 3…2…1…GO!!!
As I walked through the IRONMAN swim start walkway, I saw my new friend David’s family from the day before waving good luck. My 17 Hours started as soon as my left ankle moved over the sensor and my swim was underway!
The excitement and nervousness about the race as a whole quickly subsided, and my eyes looked about half a mile into the distance at the farthest buoy – the first turn. Took one step after the next into the Gulf of Mexico, the waves fighting each and every one.
Once it was reasonable, I dove into the next wave and began swimming as efficiently as possible. My wetsuit was definitely helping as my legs were essentially floating at the surface with little effort. Each stroke was smooth and I found a rhythm pretty quick. The contact between other athletes in the water was expected and however annoying it got, as long as my goggles stayed on and my timing ship remained on my ankle secured under my wetsuit I would be OK.
The use of my legs for the swim was very minimal as I conserve any energy for the bike and run where my arms do not have to be nearly as involved in the action.
The first lap went ‘swimmingly’… Felt like the current helped push me back to the beach on the turnaround. Once the waves started breaking, I tried standing back up and after a few tries I finally stabilized and ran around for my second lap.
Going back out was much harder than it seemed the first time. Bigger waves, stronger current. The swimming became much easier beyond where the waves were breaking. The new challenge was trying to swim straight.. I must have added an extra quarter mile to my swim (exaggerating) just based on all the adjustments needed during my second lap. Once I got to the turnaround to head back, it seemed as if I was swimming in place due to such a heavy current. Considering I urinated twice in my wetsuit (once per lap), I’d like to think that all the moving and shaking was probably a good thing. (Total Pee count: 4)
In the words of a wise fish, I just kept swimming.
Concerned about time, I tried getting out of the water as fast as possible and into transition. Since I was wearing the wetsuit, I took advantage of the volunteers who ripped the suit off for me. Then I ran up some stairs to the showers conveniently located on the way to the transition area.
Unlike most triathlons, the IRONMAN has the transition bags, and volunteers hand you your bag as you are running from the swim into the gender specific changing room, which is the first time I have ever seen/used one at a race before.. Volunteers are there handing out waters, helping athletes change to a comfortable extent, and helping clean up if needed. Even on the way to my bike, there were some Alabama fans who were volunteering that helped lather sunscreen on my arms and neck! (#GoGators) More volunteers got my bike for me to make sure I was on my way to the bike course!
If I focused on any area of training particularly well, my bike was not exactly it.. Although I knew the bike would take close to half of my race time and the overwhelming majority of miles in the IRONMAN, I only averaged Maybe 2/3 rides a week until the month before the race.. This was partially a result of shipping and waiting for my bike to come from Florida to California, a week with my brother in LA, and working 40+ Hours at Intel.
My goal on the bike was to finish in less than 8 Hours, keeping at least a 14 mph pace at a bare minimum. This would then give me around 7 hours for the run where I could comfortably run a small portion and walk when necessary to at least finish the race in the 17 Hours. The fact that I finished the swim in around 1:40 gave me an extra ~20 minutes just in case.
Leaving the transition area for the bike is always fun and refreshing. Drying off from the swim, feeling fast on the bike, and riding past random strangers cheering you on – I simply love it.
Started strong, trying to pace myself with other riders keeping my goal pace without working too hard too early. I began making friends with some neighbors who traded places with me a few times that kept between a 16-18mph average pace. This was above my goal, but I felt comfortable – Mile Marker 10 came up relatively fast. 102 miles left.
Soon after Mile 10 was the largest climb of the race.. a Bridge! (#Florida) My training in California’s hills had definitely paid off tremendously. The struggle was real for some people, but I glided past at least 20/30 people on my ascent and another
5/10 coming back down the bridge. Compared to the steep hills of Mt. Hamilton in Milpitas, California, this was cake.
As Mile Marker 20 approached, I finally felt that my colon was about ready to be emptied. I saw some port-o-potties on the opposite side of the road (this was an out-and-back and I would be passing these on my way back, whenever that would be), however I figured at this pace I could wait another 10 miles and use it then to make sure I was as efficient as possible with my time.
10 miles later.. No port-o-potties in sight!! In the athletes meeting earlier in the week it was mentioned how around every 10 miles there would be some drinks, GU’s, bananas, and port-o-potties, but apparently it was not EVERY 10 miles! It was then
when I realized the shitty decision I made. For the subsequent 10 miles, the poop jokes were unreal. I was imagining HIMYM’s Alyson Hannigan (Lily Aldrin) asking me, ‘Where’s the Poop?‘ while having flashbacks about my first Half Marathon. But that’s another story..
Finally I found the answer to Lily Aldrin’s question: Mile 40. Twenty miles of discomfort (approximately 1+ hours) later, and I could not have been more excited. Had a nice conversation with a volunteer who happened to be a FSU
Seminole while waiting in line, and when I came out of that port-o-potty, I felt like a new man! The next few miles felt as if
I was riding on cloud 9, and enjoying every minute of it! (Total Pee count: 5)
Then begun the musical portion of the ride. No amplified sound or headphones are allowed for the race, so I made a concert of my own.. Directly following my poopy predicament, I was jamming out to James Brown – I Feel Good! Once I was passing mile 56, I could not help but to start singing Bon Jovi.. Oh, We’re Half Way There!! Even a neighbor start singing with me for the chorus
Over the next 20 miles, I caught up with my friend David at another Pee stop (Total Pee count: 6), and another rider came up next to me said he appreciated my mental attitude and positivity! He continued to say he was really feeling his muscles getting to him, but when I passed him a few miles back, he said to himself that he needed to emulate my mindset. This guy told me I was making this look easy! Really made me feel great! 😀
Side Note: When I pass people, I always make it a point to compliment and/or encourage them somehow – even a simple ‘keep it up, you got this’ can go a long way for some racers
Then came Mile 80. Secretly I had been looking forward to this as it had been compared to ‘the wall’ runners get when closing in on the end of a marathon. When riding the 112 miles and you reach 80, it is easy to think you are almost there when the reality is you still have over 30 solid miles left. Interestingly enough, the most difficult stretch of the ride for me mentally was not caused by the mile number, but an obnoxious out-and-back loop between miles 80 and 90 (Both of which I stopped for the restroom.. Total Pee count: 8).
Until this point, I had been keeping myself super hydrated (to say the least), but when it came to food, I had the oatmeal and bagel in the morning, but when I tried having another bagel in my transition, I simply could not eat it.. It was very difficult to get down two bites for some reason. On my ride I did have Cliff Bars stocked up and tried having one around mile 10, but it was not until almost mile 90 where I finished it! GU’s and the occasional banana had been my primary source of ‘solids’.
The rain came and went between mile 90 and 100 for around 3 miles. Cold and fast, each droplet smacked me all over the place. While the rain was coming down, I had a full conversation with a guy named John. He had signed up for this race with his wife as they were going to bond over the training a year ago, which they thought was a great idea at the time.. Turns out they are now divorced and until a month before the race, John was unsure if he was even going to compete anymore. Once his friends, family and trainer convinced him to do it, he then had to book another room at a hotel and
now coordinate a whole bunch of other logistics now that he had already moved to another state! PLUS his (now ex) wife was still racing too! Listening to this guy open up to me definitely took my mind off the race and the rain coming down. Conversations with other athletes do tend to be very interesting!
As mile 100 was approaching, my confidence was rising. One guy told me he was drafting me and hoped I didn’t mind. He said it would be worth the penalty as long as it helped him finish the bike! I took it more as a compliment and really didn’t care – him drafting me wouldn’t affect my race/pace at all anyways. This drafter kept with me until mile 100. It just so happened that mile 100 was coordinated perfectly with the peak of the tall bridge on our way back to the transition area!
This time it was definitely more challenging to climb up the bridge, but still felt easy when compared to California mountains.. That said, I saw one guy who was stopped on the side of the road seeking medical attention – There was an ambulance assisting another athlete around mile 80 too. I hoped they were OK and also was thankful that I had been doing so well up to this point.
The adrenaline of passing mile 100 was surreal as it had only been my second time riding anywhere close to 100 miles (1st time was a month before the race)!
I must have been averaging around 17-19mph for most of those miles near the end – I severely underestimated the length of those last 10 miles but was just too excited to complete the bike. I figured going fast here would make more time for the run and I would feel more satisfied that I pushed myself as hard as possible on the bike. It felt awesome. As I rode past some people cheering, I remember screaming “I’m finishing this shit!!” Once I heard I was pulling into the end of my ride around 3:30pm, I knew I had almost enough time to WALK the marathon if I had to. Without getting too far ahead of myself, the realization of the goal being accomplished was incredible.
Riding towards the IRONMAN Village into the transition was fantastic. People were cheering and screaming at me, I was screaming and cheering back at them. My mom was there too! Plus I found out the Gators beat Vanderbilt in the Homecoming game, which was nice.
Dismounted my bike well, and a volunteer took it from me and ran it back to the place with my bib number, while another volunteer handed me my T2 Transition Bag which had all my running gear (shoes, new socks), another bagel, Cliff Bars, GU’s and ‘The Stick’ which I have had since High School. That stick has become my lifeline and I bring to every race.
In the changing room, I saw many new friends who were neighbors on the bike ride and everyone was talking about their best and worst parts of the ride. The bridge, the rain, the turnaround.. it was a cool environment since we were all still in the race and it was not over yet!
114.4 miles down, 26.2 more – Only a marathon left!
Since 2011, I’ve run 4 Half Marathons, and 2 Full Marathons. I’ve had more experience running than biking or swimming combined. With one Marathon/26.2 miles left between me and the finish line, I was determined and confident that I was going to finish.. The question, (dramatic pause) was when?
As I was about to begin my run, I calculated how much time I had and what the minimum number of miles I needed to run/jog before I was able to walk the rest comfortably to finish – if it came down to that. I figured it takes the average person around 20 minutes to walk a mile (thanks Google), and I had somewhere between 7 and 8 hours left of my 17 hour cutoff. So if I rounded to 8 hours, I should be able to walk 24 miles, but I would not finish. If it were 7 hours, I’d be able to walk 21 miles, but still would not finish.
Knowing I was closer to the 8 hour limit, my initial goals were to either run a 5K (3.1 Miles) and judge how I was doing from there, or do a run/walk each mile however long I could.
When I started the run, I quickly passed this one older guy in his late 50’s who had become my best friend on the bike ride – we must have passed each other a dozen times. He said to me that when he finishes, he is going to tell his wife and kids about how he became friends, but he would have to leave out the fact that I was a Gator.. His whole family is full of Georgia Bulldogs!! It was a good laugh as I figured he must have been thinking that for at least a few hours by now.
The transition between the bike and run is typically the most challenging as the body adjusts from moving the legs in a certain repeated motion for hours, to another similar, but mechanically different motion for another extended period of time. Some studies suggest it takes some people 10-15 minutes to fully adjust from biking to running.
All I knew, was that I felt fantastic. After a few minutes of running, I asked a neighbor if there was a mile marker for each mile, and she said we had already passed the first one a few minutes ago! Surprised I missed it, I continued to set my next goal to run the 5K and see how I am doing at that point.
Most of the race was through neighborhoods, and the Marathon itself was 2 laps. I found it crazy how some people looked so good passing me while on their 2nd lap!
Miles 2-4 (15-16) were definitely the most exciting. With themed sections and decorations by those who lived in the neighborhoods, there were a lot of cool/interesting people out cheering everyone on and having a good time. One of the houses were 70’s themed with a disco ball hanging from a string that was connected to a wire between trees! Another house was Charlie Brown themed, There was an ROTC block, and a ‘Garage Band’ playing inside a garage!
One moment I don’t think I’ll ever forget happened around 2-3 miles in. There was a group of la
dies who were giving alcoholic drinks out to athletes for what seemed to be a few hours by the time I got to them. As it happened, I was in a group
of guys about to pass their table when one lady comes in front of us laughing and saying jokes I was not paying much attention to until.. WHABAM! She flashes all of us for a moment of glory that all of the women couldn’t help but to point out all the smiles on our tired faces! Definitely a fun boost of morale for all parties involved.
Soon after, the 5K mark was ahead. I was definitely surprised that I was still running and even more surprised as to how good I felt! With only a few bathroom stops over the next few miles, the Forrest Gump in me just felt like running. So that’s what I did! (Total Pee count: 12)
With the initial goal of running 1 mile, and a revised goal of running the first 5K, it wasn’t until around 13.5 miles into the Marathon that I thought it would be a good idea to try and walk for a few minutes before continuing my run.. It wasn’t. After just a few minutes of walking, my legs started tightening up and I could feel a small blister forming on the partially numb toes of my right foot. Still 13 miles to go.
Mentally, I was on point. If my Timing was correct, I had just run that Half Marathon in around 2 Hours and 15 minutes (only minutes away from my slowest Half Marathon time)!
On the second lap of the 2-lap Marathon, the sun was setting fast. The later it got, the more rowdy the crowds of people were. That group of ladies who gave me a show earlier were still outside handing out Jello Shots and a few miles later, a group of guys were handing out beers and other alcoholic beverages! Chicken broth, potato/pretzel chips, cliff bars, bananas and amino-acid infused salt were also being handed out to everyone as well.
A friend I caught up to a friend I made on the bike around mile 15. We kept referring to each other as ‘Gator buddy’ (it varied..) so I do not remember her name anymore. Her family was cheering on one of the streets and she had grown up in Panama City so this was more of a homecoming of sorts – Ironic because this was Homecoming Weekend at UF as well. The first year they did the Florida IRONMAN nearly 20 years ago she volunteered, and little did she know she would be racing it as she grew up! During her time at UF, there was no Triathlon club, but she still didn’t get into endurance training until after she graduated.
Around mile 18/19, I met a new friend who shared how this was her third and final IRONMAN. She has a kid now and got into the sport a couple years ago to show her kids (and herself) that anything is possible. My new friend went on to explain how she used to be very unhealthy and out of shape and as a challenge she randomly signed up for an IRONMAN . The rest was history. We ran/walked together for around 5 miles. I shared with her how I was over hydrated and actually used the port-o-potty three times in the 5 miles we were together! (Total Pee count: 15) together! She happened to be carrying salt pills, typically used in endurance sports to replace sodium lost through sweat ( like Gatorade), and gave me one to take since salt is naturally dehydrating.
The longer I was walking, the more I could feel my body aching. By now, the blister on my right foot felt like the size of a golf ball. The scariest feeling was starting to develop in my right knee. I’ve had a history of IT band issues and simply not being flexible so with over 135 miles (2.4 swim, 110 bike and ~23 Miles) on my legs to this point, hamstring felt like a dry tree branch waiting to snap.
With less than a 5K left, I knew I was excited to finish and tried to enjoy the last moments of the race as much as possible. Being so close to accomplishing a goal is an interesting feeling – Thoughts of the finish line, and deliciously unhealthy food accompanied by the fear of any unforeseen circumstance get in the way like an Auburn Kickoff return or a bad hop in an Elite Eight March Madness game. All I needed to do was put one step in front of the other and not screw up..
As we were all cheering each other on, I caught up to a man in front of me who turned around and smiled – it was my friend Josh who I had met a few days prior at the IRONMAN Expo and again at the Banquet! He complemented how I was holding up as I was still smiling, jogging for the time being and only a couple miles left before I crossed the finish line for the first time. He was looking great as well, almost in reach of his Personal Record! We tried cheering each other on and said we would be crossing the finish line within seconds of each other. Although continued to feel all the pain in my legs/knees and the obnoxious blister that’s been with me for a few hours now, I could not keep that deal as I needed to go to use the restroom AGAIN and told him not to wait. (Total Pee count: 16)
Mile 25 was approaching and more people lined the sides of the road as I got closer to the finish line. It was approaching the 15 Hour mark since the race began and the first racers entered the water (around 9PM), so these people who stayed outside in the cold, damp Florida night were the real MVP’s to most of the remaining athletes.
With the Finish line just far away where I could barely hear the music, I couldn’t help but to feel an unusual nervous excitement, which then translated to the need to ‘drain the main vein’ for what became the last time during my IRONMAN race! (Total Pee count: 17)
Yes, my excretory system demonstrated that it works very well and proved to my mom that I do stay hydrated. Very hydrated. (During Races..)
Out of all 17 times I urinated in under 15 Hours, this time was the most memorable. I started a conversation with a lady on the side of the road and asked where the closest port-o-potty was, but since there was not another port-o-potty until the finish, she offered to use the one in her condo! Turns out she was waiting for her husband to finish the race and they were renting the condo for the week.
Now it was on.
As I felt the last push of adrenaline and realized I only had around three quarters (.75) of a mile left, I had to give it all I had left. No Excuses. I didn’t want to walk at the end and wish I could have finished faster (not that .75 miles would have made much of a difference, but simply based on principle).
After walking and jogging for the majority of the last two hours, I began to sprint. All the aches, the pain, the fears, all seemed to disappear. I was finishing this race, and I was finishing in style.
The music got louder, The sound of cowbells sang, and the people started yelling ‘Go Gators!’ ‘Finish Strong!’ then finally the bright lights of the finish line were now in sight with the voice of the IRONMAN welcoming every finisher crossing the finish line.
My speed kept picking up. If I recall correctly, I’d say my pace was somewhere around a 7:30/8 minute mile, but in my mind, I remember feeling more like Flash Gordon about to save the Universe. I did hear a few people around one corner comment on my speed too! (Made me feel even better!)
In the last mile, I probably passed around 20+ people.
Getting closer to the shoot fight before the finish line, I slowed down to give space between myself and the person in front and behind me in hopes of getting great finish line photos without anyone else in them.
‘The Shoot’ is essentially the last 30-40 feet leading up to the finish line with a red carpet and bleachers lining the sides.
Going through the shoot was a surreal experience. We see this moment on TV, in YouTube videos, and of course in the pictures. Obviously none of those beat the actual feeling itself.
All the moments from the first steps in the first training run for the first race you ever competed in, to the first Half Marathon, Marathon, Triathlon distances, etc. come rushing in until you realize you haven’t stopped moving for close to 15 Hours and in only a few short steps you aren’t only going to achieve a long term goal you didn’t even think was possible one day 4 years ago in a High School Peer Counseling class, but you can actually sit down and not take another step! (Shoutout to Coach Rountree!)
To all the people who I’ve trained with, who have motivated me to continue racing and have given me advice, tips, and even supplies around the way, I honestly and truly appreciate all the help and guidance you have all individually contributed to my IRONMAN Journey. Form Alex Weinraub inspiring me to sign up for my first race, to my High School coaches (DeCarlo, Kalos, and of course Gineth who actually was racing the Florida IRONMAN that weekend as well!), even to my College coaches, my TriGator Team (even though my training schedule almost never syncs up with theirs) and the Gainesville community members like Boris from Body By Boris who have helped in probably the most beneficial way possible – positive encouragement, legitimate training advice/techniques, and any leftover training supplies :). Thank you all!
I swam 2.4 Miles, biked 112 Miles, and Ran 26.2 Miles.
Most races have packet pickup days leading up to the race itself and some even have it the morning of the race.. The IRONMAN is not ‘most races’.. The latest time to do packet pickup for the IRONMAN is by 5pm on the Thursday leading up to the race, which is on Saturday. coming all the way form California, and wanting to miss as few days of work possible, this meant the fun started for me at 11pm on Wednesday night with a flight from San Francisco to Chicago.
I’m doing us both a favor by leaving out the frantic moments of packing last minute and having to change flight arrangements a week before the race.. Side note: Thank you Eric for the ride to the Airport, and to my roommate Ryan for helping me pack/find my things, and calling Uber to drive me to Eric’s. I owe you both some delicious food of your choice.
Sitting in the middle seat on a 4 hour ride, I made friends with my neighbors. One was an environmentalist who plays Amateur Ultimate Frisbee for a club in San Francisco (she seemed super legit!) and the other an ‘international’ Physicist who is studying at Berkeley and is traveling to New York to partner with another lab for a project – That is about all I really understood from our conversation.. definitely a real interesting guy though. I did end up sleeping for a solid hour or two.
What would have been a two hour layover in Chicago, became a few minutes when I was able to hop on an earlier flight to Houston Texas that left around 6AM instead of 7:30.
It was my first time in both Illinois and Texas, but I have to say that when I got off the plan in Houston, I could tell it was Texas – it was a huge airport, with long moving sidewalks (‘flat escalators’ in airports 😛 ), large people (both tall and wide), plus BBQ places in every food area. Also, most conversations I had and that were happening around me were pertaining to sports and college football – much different than in Silicon Valley and in the Bay Area.
Finally boarded a prop plane for Panama City with new friends Ollie (short for Alejandro) and his girlfriend, both on their way to the race as well. This was Ollie’s first IRONAMN too.
In the Panama City airport, I befriended a Colombian couple who live in Houston and were on the same plane. The guy was decked out in IRONMAN branded socks, shirt, backpack and bags! He has done IRONMAN Triathlons around the world and this will be his first one since shoulder surgery only a few months ago. They were getting picked up by friends who drove over from Texas and offered me a ride, obviously I was down – Panama City does not have Uber!
For those keeping track We all needed to be registered and signed in by 5pm – we arrived in Florida just before 2, and drove directly over to where registration was happening. The IRONMAN Village.
The IRONMAN Village is the hub of everything IRONMAN related. From the week long expo with vendors, music and food, to the IRONMAN merchandise tent, this is where all the action happens.
Once we registered, we explored the merchandise tent (conveniently located next to registration..). We met a cool guy named Josh who was looking for his name in an IRONMAN cloth near some hats. He and I connected quickly and helped convince each other to buy a new IRONMAN hat. When finished shopping, it just so happened that my Colombian friends stayed in the same hotel, so they gave me another ride down the street! Relaxed for around an hour, then I took a taxi back to the IRONMAN Village for the Opening Banquet for all athletes and families.
That is when it all hit me.. Reality set in. The intensity of the videos, emotional speeches being made, and listening to the incredible stories of the many other athletes I would be competing with in only a couple days. If I was going to have an emotional breakdown, this was definitely going to be the time and place for it. Was my training enough? Did I put in enough hours and as many workouts necessary to even finish the race? All these people around me are so incredibly in shape and here I am thinking I can complete this race with them.. That said, they did have a buffet filled with carbs and cookies, so that definitely helped calm down my nerves. Saw my friend Josh again where we exchanged some words of encouragement, both wearing the hats we bought earlier. Called it a night soon after that.
Woke up close to 6AM on Friday, and as it got closer to 7, I knew the countdown had begun – the final 24 Hours.
Went to breakfast, provided by the Hotel, and connected with a family who was there to support the Father, David (ironic). Big Gator fans, David and his wife had a son who was a sophomore in High School with aspirations for UF. Honestly, I could not be happier talking about UF, Gainesville, and the Innovation Academy again. It was also David’s first IRONMAN as well, and he started asking me how I was packing my Transition bags or any special needs bags to use during the race. Completely dumbfounded confused, David explained to me how he watched a YouTube video the night before where he too learned that the transition for an IRONMAN is very different than a traditional Triathlon and there were specific bags where you had to place items in for the T1 (Swim to Bike) and the T2 (Bike to Run). He and his family offered me a ride and nicely waited for me to go back to my room and pack my transition bags.
Back at the village, transition bags in hand, I went over to the TriBike Transport tent to pick up my bike which had been shipped over from California. Brought my bike and bags over to a mandatory athletes meeting to learn about any rules and race conditions. Obviously people were interested in water temperature and if the race would be wet-suit legal or not. If you wear a wet-suit and it is not legal, you still are considered a finisher, but are not considered for any Age Group awards or a qualifying spot for Kona – the World Championships in Hawaii After the meeting, I set my bike in Transition, placed my transition bags in their corresponding locations, and met up with my mom who drove up from South Florida to support (Yes, I am lucky and have thanked her at least once that I can remember ).
Before Dinner, David and I met up for a quick open water swim to ‘test the water’ and ended the day at Olive Garden for an endless Pasta to finish off the night!
In preparation for the race in the morning, we went out to a supermarket and bought some water, oatmeal for breakfast, and bagels with sunflower butter that is similar to peanut butter. I was going to put those bagels in my transition bags for some carbs during my transitions.
All that was left to do was sleep! My alarms were set between 3 and 4AM. Transition opens at 4 and ends at 5:45AM for any last minute changes, then the race starts at 6:15 in the Gulf of Mexico!
The Anxiety was getting to me, but I could not help but to be excited!
Reminded by my friend Alex this weekend, that the first time I ever heard of the IRONMAN race was when he showed me this video almost six years ago. We sat in my house and said one day he would finish this race. Honestly, I did not think I’d be racing it only a few short years later.. Here’s how it all happened.
Senior year of High School. I had just finished my first marathon and was challenged in my Peer Counseling class to pick a goal, write it down, and start expressing it to others. This was to create a mental and social bind to this goal to help me follow through with what I had said. My goal: Finish a Half-IRONMAN 70.3 Race. Figured I didn’t want to run anything longer than a Marathon so Triathlons seemed to be a natural transition (#TriathlonJokes). A Sprint seemed too short, Olympic looked like it would not be as impressive, an IRONMAN was obviously ridiculous, so half-jokingly, I settled on the 70.3 distance.
I reached that goal a year later in my first Spring Semester in Clermont, FL. Being in the University of Florida’s Innovation Academy, was able to train over the Fall semester, join the UF Triathlon team, and race in my first Triathlon in Miami (Escape to Miami Olympic Triathlon) to prepare for the 70.3 Mile race in April. I even took advantage of a 30-day project in my Creativity class to train for the 30 days leading up to my race with the Half IRONMAN being the finale – timing just so happened to work out!
Fall 2014, I remember looking up Full IRONMAN races to see where the closest one was out of curiosity and I saw only one in Florida. The event ironically was the past weekend, so I decided to sleep on it and think about signing up for the race over agian. I check back the next day to look over the details and realize the race was SOLD OUT.. The same week as the race just took place, it had already sold out for the FOLLOWING YEAR!! I could not believe it.
A few months later, I found myself saying that I knew I could finish the Full IRONMAN distance to a number of friends, family, and even random people I had just met. Apparently I had talked myself into doing it and all I had to do was sign up.
Fall 2015 comes along and I’m working in Orlando at Walt Disney World. It’s been a while since I trained for something worth while, but the conversations about the IRONMAN didn’t stop. I mentally committed to signing up for the Florida IRONMAN in November, so when I found out about the Walt Disney World Marathon, I couldn’t resist signing up before that sold out too – it’s always more motivating to train when there is a race to train for. The training had begun.
My work schedule is released for the weekend of the Florida IRONMAN, and I was working. In Tourism, working weekends is a part of the job description so I was not surprised. Finding someone to cover the shift was the hard part, but on the 7th person I asked, a fellow intern agreed to cover it for me.. (Thanks again, AJ!)
IRONMAN registration opens in the following order to these people:
Athletes who competed in this year’s race
General Public in attendance (on location)
Online for everyone else
Working until Midnight on November 1st, the day of the race, the plan was to be in Panama City at 9AM November 2nd to see what was going on and to wait in line to sign up in person, ensuring I had a spot for the next year. Following work, I was going to take a short nap (1-2 hours) and then begin the drive from Orlando to Panama City Beach. After Signing up for the race, I’d make my way to Tallahassee and stay at my friends place while checking in on the new FSU Hopping 4 A Cure Chapter, then make my way back down to Orlando.
Got off work and made it back to Vista Way safely, ready for a nice nap. That 1-2 hour nap turned into a 9-10 hour slumber.
The goal of being in Panama City by 9AM, turned into the frustration of waking up in Orlando at 9AM!
Out of rage and frustration, I threw on some clothes, grabbed my computer, ran to my car and immediately hit the highway. Felt weird passing Gainesville without stopping but I was too frustrated to consider what could have happened if I tried sleeping at a friends place in Gainesville after work instead of having to make the 7 Hour drive all at once.
When approaching I-10, I knew I needed to take it easy with my speed because I did not want a ticket. I-10 is notorious for tickets since it is a long, flat, straight road that gets boring real quick when you are driving long distances. My time on I-75 was coming to an end, when bright red and blue lights fill up my rear-view. I was clocked by a Helicopter.. in the sky!!
Now stuck with a $300 ticket (rounding up.. a few dollars..), super late from my goal time and with an extremely low chance of getting a spot, I still decided to keep on moving and see what happens.
As I pass Tallahassee, I realized I caught two breaks. I completely forgot that Daylight Savings Time had just taken place (plus one Hour) AND I never knew that Panama City Beach (and west) was in ANOTHER TIME ZONE than the rest of the state of Florida (plus one Hour), meaning I was just ‘given’ two hours to arrive in Panama City a bit earlier than the new expected time!
Exiting I-10, Google Maps brought me down State Road 12. I was in desperate need of Gas, but actually felt extremely uncomfortable when I pulled into the gas stations, so I continued to whenever the next gas station was going to come up.. Blountstown, FL.
After re-fueling I was only around an Hour away from Panama City Beach, the destination I had typed on my phone. No idea where in Panama City the race was taking place, just knew to head to the beach and I should be able to find it – it is a 140+ mile race anyways, right?
Of course there were IRONMAN logos everywhere and it was relatively easy to find where the race was based. Now only to find where to sign up for next year.
I asked a guy near where I parked who looked like he just raced and asked him where to go to sign up, and after checking his watch, he said I was probably too late! It was around 3pm in Panama City and the in-person registration closed close to 12pm Noon. I was devastated but decided to check out the actual location to see if anyone could help. Nothing could be done but to try and check online.
Surely enough, registration seemed to be open on my phone so I sprinted back to my car for my computer – so lucky it was with me! Computer in hand, I burst into the lobby of a Hotel I parked in and exuberantly explained the situation to the front desk (probably in even more detail than this) and asked for their Wi-Fi information.
Bing. Boom. Pow. Entered in my card information… DENIED – my credit limit was too low for the month!! The race after all taxes and fees was close to $800 (rounding up)!! Called my mom to save the day, and after some serious finagling and intense typing .. WHABAM!
When I first moved out to the Bay Area in September, I was looking for places to go and for new friends to make. The first weekend after moving into my AirBnB place happened to be the first College Football Gameday. Luckily a friend told me about a Gator Bar near Google where a number of Alumni meet up to watch the game. The Sports Page.
A life size, blow-up Gator greeted me in front of the door like a lawn decoration on Christmas as I walked in. Around 20 Alumni were inside with an average age of 32, definitely different than the swamp. Some festive Alumni who I assumed led this chapter of the Alumni Association had me sign in and gave me the ‘BEAT’ Sticker. After a little small talk with some guys near the bar, I sat down at a table to order some food.
The guy I sat next to seemed cool, and we started talking about a startup he is working on. His company was a mix of finance and social media, which he said has grown a lot over the past couple years. As the conversation progressed, I introduced myself and once he said his name, I couldn’t help but to think what are the chances of that?!
The first person I had a full conversation with beyond my new roommates in the Bay Area happened to be a UF graduate with a Social Media startup, Haitian, and named Jerry.
For those reading this and do not know, I became very close with an amazing man named Jerry DeClasse at UF. Jerry was an Innovation Academy student, involved as an executive board member of the Entrepreneurship Club and was a Social Media guru who had tens of millions of followers across multiple Twitter accounts. This past January he tragically passed away at the age of 20.
Since I have moved out here to this tech hub, Jerry crosses my mind almost everyday. From my first day exploring San Francisco passing by the Twitter HQ, to having conversations with strangers about Drake or Dragon Ball Z, there have been so many times when I would think about what it would be like if Jerry was out here exploring with me, or even his reaction to the stories I’d be telling him/people I’ve met.
During my time at UF, he has truly been the most driven, entrepreneurial and humble person I’ve met and I could not have been more lucky to call Jerry DeClasse a friend. Jerry taught me more than I believed I could ever teach him. I am grateful for the time I spent with him and a better man as a result.
Today my friend would have turned 21.
Happy Birthday to the man who has inspired me to learn more and be better each and every day.
Flying from Chicago to Houston, a conversation sparked with my airplane neighbor, John, about business and entrepreneurship. Working as a Chemist in a coating company (coating for boats, bridges, etc. to prevent erosion/decay) for almost a decade, he has aspirations to start something to call his own one day.
Following an exchange of business cards, John took an interest in Hopping 4 A Cure as it was a nonprofit and asked more about the process of becoming a 501c3. In short, I explained that it was a long process that takes a lot of time and money to get all the documents prepared correctly. Even once the papers are prepared, the application process for the tax status might take six months at a minimum (Hopping 4 A Cure took almost 2 years)!
The concept he is working on takes adults from various professions (lawyers, judges, doctors, chemists, ect.) and pairs them up with youth for mentorship/life coaching. John is still in the ‘idea’ stage but seemed to want to jump right into the process of becoming a nonprofit.
Through a number of conversations with people I have had, many people who have ‘ideas’ and concepts they want to pursue are quick to become a legal entity – from 501c3’s to LLC’s. I say wait. Why put forth the time and money for a company that might not be viable or worth pursuing a year from now?
My Advice (take it or leave it): Take your product/concept/idea and put it to the test as soon as possible. Fail. Create an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and get feedback fast. This may be generic information from many ‘Entrepreneurship 101’ classes, and part of the daily conversations had in places like the UF Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation however to those who haven’t taken entrepreneurship classes or do not have access to these resources, here’s why:
People may not be interested (sorry)
You may not be interested
In John’s case, if he starts hosting an event or two but finds that organizing these activities is not something he is willing/wanting to do for a while, then he might be better off leaving this or handing it off to someone else
Others will give you feedback that could help you define your target market
In the Innovation Academy’s Venture Accelerator course, we had to ask over 100 people about our product/service throughout a semester (roughly 10 people each week) based on different areas of the ‘Business Model Canvas’ specifically to nail down exactly who would spend money on what we were working on and what we could add to incentivize potential customers to buy more, or spend more
You may find there is a better/more efficient way to improve processes
Although our Hopping 4 A Cure events have remained relatively similar since our first event in 2011, we added a team element and improved how we keep track of time for each participant through player cards, given to each Hopscotcher – both of which was a result of an event recap between the volunteers and organizers of our initial event
Long story short (something that typically means I have a lot more to say..), take time in validating your idea/concept/product before taking the time and money into making a full scale business entity. Hopping 4 A Cure was endorsed by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society before we decided to become our own Full 501c3 nonprofit and we only started filling out paperwork around our second event, a year after we hosted our first one.
Good luck John, hope it all works out for you! (Funny because I am writing this right next to you writing this!)