"I had precious little
time to prepare mentally as the announcer
called for my wave to move down the dock
into the water. Usually in a time trial
start I'd have a moment or two to gather my
thoughts before getting in the drink. The
rushed start probably helped me contain the
nervous energy that was coursing through my
body. This was, after all, the FOSTER GRANT
IRONMAN WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP 70.3 and I was no
spectator today. I'd spent months upon
months training for this day, for this
moment, and it was time to execute the
Hi, my name is
Chad Soileau and the following is my account
of swimming, biking and running the Foster
Grant Ironman World Championship 70.3 on
November 14, 2009 in Clearwater, Florida.
The distances of this half-Ironman event
consist of a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike
and a 13.1 mile run. The world championship
is an elite, qualification only event that
hosts the best of the best pro and age group
triathletes in the world. Qualification
takes place at any of the dozens of Ironman
70.3 events around the world where a first
through third place finish in your age group
secures your slot.
So, you may be
asking yourself as you read this, "Wow
Chad! You went from a back of the pack, age
grouper triathlete to placing and getting
slots for the world championship?"
when I'm in my 70s and there's only 2 other
racers in my age group I could maybe get a
slot but I'm in one of the most competitive
age groups in the sport of triathlon.
Securing a slot to this race in the 35 - 39
would be next to impossible for me.
So , how did I,
Chad Soileau, former super morbidly obese
man, get a slot to the Foster Grant Ironman
World Championship 70.3? I think it best
that I start at the beginning... I contacted
Blair LaHaye, Ironman Director of
Communications, shortly after the Ironman World
Championship last year to see if my story
would be compelling enough for a media slot
to Kona. I knew deep down that I would never
hold a candle to the amazing stories like
John Blaise or Rick and Dick Hoyt but I had
to try. Kona, the Ironman World
Championship, is IT for a triathlete... The
Holy Grail of triathlon. It's the top of the
mountain for triathletes and to participate
in that race is, for some, to conquer their
own personal Everest. Heh, I even find
myself buying products strictly because they
may have the word "Kona" on them, as in some
weird way, hoping it would improve my
chances of winning one of the coveted
I continued to
train and race in the waning months of 2008,
registering for Panama City's Ironman
Florida last November. If Kona wouldn't
happen for me in 2009 I would still get my
Ironman on November 7, 2009 right?
That was my plan...
I got a call in
April from Blair with an invitation to the
Foster Grant Ironman World Championship
70.3. Kona wouldn't be in the cards
for 2009 but I was equally excited and
beside myself for the opportunity being
presented before me. An invitation to
participate in the 70.3 World Championship,
and more importantly, an opportunity for my
story to be broadcast to the masses and
hopefully touch someone? My decision was all
but made before our conversation ended until
I realized the date of the race... November
14th, exactly one week after Ironman
Florida. I think Blair could hear the
conflict in my voice as I realized there
would be no way I could do both races. She
told me to think about it and let her know.
getting my Ironman in Panama City at Ironman
Florida or participating in the 70.3 World
Championship. I struggled with the thought
that if I chose to race the Foster Grant
Ironman World Championship 70.3 I would not
be an Ironman in 2009. God has a way of
opening doors and presenting unique
opportunities, so there was no way I would
pass up racing in the 70.3 World
Championship. It saddened me that I would
not be an Ironman in 2009... but after a bit
of soul searching I realized that deep down
it's not how FAST I get to be an Ironman
it's more about my journey. I guess I
can make a direct comparison about getting
my Ironman to my racing philosophy. It
doesn't matter who's in front of me or
behind me. I control my own destiny and I
will cross that finish line. It's no longer
IF I will be an Ironman it's WHEN and, rest
assured, I'll get my Ironman at Coeur d'
Alene on June 27, 2010.
I called Blair
back later that day and accepted the
invitation with great anticipation. I
called my coach, Will Jones of 4th Dimension
Fitness, to get his advice on adjusting my
racing schedule and devising a training plan
for the Foster Grant Ironman World
Championship 70.3. The "PLAN" was set
and the months of training commenced.
Fast forward 7
months and hundreds of hours of training.
Kelli and I arrived at my nephew's house in
Orlando early on Thursday morning after a
LONG night of driving. The two hours
of sleep were welcomed as I knew the day
would be loaded down with interviews
and video shoots with several local
television stations. The camera crews
videoed me swimming, biking and running and
even followed me through registration as I
picked up my packet and weighed in.
(The highlight of the weigh-in?
13.5% body fat percentage!)
After a long
day of interviewing, my nephew Garet, his
wife Sara, Philippe Kozub, Chris Boggs,
Kelli and I attended the race's Welcome
Dinner on the beach at Sand Key Park.
The dinner, held on the beach, was only
steps from the Gulf of Mexico.
Flags of over 30 nations were represented by
participating athletes. A neat
highlight of the night was the few moments
where three inspirational stories of
athletes, of which my story was one, was
presented to the attendees. It
was odd to see my before and after pictures
presented on a digital screen 30 feet wide
and high as the announcer gave a brief
overview of my journey.
What made it
even more odd was Chris Boggs yelling out,
"THAT'S MY CAT RIGHT THERE!
THAT'S MY CAT!" as the pictures were on the
screen. (Love ya IRONMAN Boggs!)
The welcome dinner was really a special
event that really displayed the electricity
and just how unique the race was.
to Thursday was loaded down with interviews.
The highlight was my interview with NBC
Sports on Friday morning. This was the
big one that will be part of the broadcast
of the race next year. The room
was darkened short of spotlights that were
beaming on me. I could only see the
bright white lights and nothing else.
I felt that I handled the interview like a
champ, talking about what the race and more
specifically what Ironman meant to me.
As I thought the interview had ended, I
heard the producers whisper something about
showing me a picture. Kelli had given
the producers a picture of my friend
Hunter McAllister and I that was taken moments
after I crossed the finish line of the Mardi
Gras Marathon in 2007. The picture,
(to the left) simple as it may be of two friends, has deep
meaning that I hold very dear to my heart.
Tears welled up in my eyes as I described
the events surrounding the picture.
They wanted some compelling TV and some
emotion so I guess they got it. :)
(Read more about the picture and my
experience at the Mardi Gras Marathon by
viewing the race report)
interviews were complete and it was time to
concentrate on the task at hand. This
was, after all, no ordinary race. This
was the Foster Grant Ironman World
Championship 70.3! It was time to
reflect, relax, and get ready to execute the
I wasn't asleep
when the alarm sounded at 5AM. I was
up, dressed and ready at 5:03. :)
Unfortunately my entourage which consisted
of Garet and Sara, who stayed the night with
us, and Kelli were not. Garet was
ready at 5:06 but the ladies I think needed
a bit more time. We decided that
we'd give them until 5:20. Well, that
deadline didn't work out so well.
The glares we got said, without words, that
they DID NOT want to be rushed. In my
defense I have no hair. If I had
hair I think I may have been ready at 5:04.
We made our way
from the hotel to transition so I could get
body marked and take care of any final
adjustments to my bike. The
cameras were on me shortly after I arrived
at the body marking station and it was like
that for pretty much the rest of the race.
I filled my water bottles, grabbed my
wetsuit and headed down to the swim start
with Garet, Sara and Kelli. Due
to the tropical storm that passed through
the area in the previous days prior to the
race, the swim venue was changed from the
gulf to the bay. The waves and
riptides in the gulf were unsafe for the
athletes so the race staff decided it best
to adjust the swim location. NBC
Sports also moved my swim start time up to
the 3rd wave, right after the pro start.
I was originally starting with my age group
at 7:30 but I would now be starting at 6:55.
After a few hugs and kisses from my crew I
headed down the dock as my wave was moving
to the water. I thought it was amusing
that the announcer kept wishing the "ladies"
good luck as we moved towards the dock.
With the exception
of Rocco Dispirito, one of the other
media athletes, and I, the 3rd wave was all female.
I even had a lady behind me ask me if I was
in the right wave. Heh heh, I
smiled, assured her that I had a vagina, and
continued to shuffle down the ramp.
I jumped off
the ramp into the cold water and started my
journey to the finish line of the Foster
Grant Ironman World Championship 70.3.
Time to execute the plan and for my 70.3
mile journey to begin!p align="justify">
The swim was a
bit chaotic for the first couple hundred
meters. I bumped and prodded my
way to get a bit of space but found that my
best bet was to just drift off to the far
left side and do my own thing. I was
able to avoid all contact with fists and
feet to the face during the swim.
Having a working pair of goggles for the
entire swim, unlike my swim fiasco at
70.3, was surely a plus! The water was
rather chilly for the first 5 minutes and I
noticed that my breathing was short and
erratic because of it. It wasn't
until I reached the first buoy that I warmed
up, calmed down and got into a rhythm that I
was able to maintain for the rest of the
swim. Maybe it was because I peed in
my wetsuit? Not really...
but yeah, really, that was the probably the
reason. Heh. The water got
really shallow towards the halfway point as
my hands were brushing up against the sea
grasses on the sandy bottom. I
took the opportunity to stand up and adjust
my goggles as they had slowly been filling
with saltwater which was a little irritating
to my eyes. I cleared them, then
dove back in the water and continued on my
way. The rest of the swim was
really uneventful. I had at
least one wave pass me on the way back in.
Things did get a little chaotic with
swimmers churning up the saltwater all
around me but it wasn't anything I couldn't
handle. I exited the water at
the funky little pirate ship, shuffled up
the dock and jogged over to the wetsuit
stripper station. They yanked my
wetsuit off in record time and pointed me in
the direction of transition.
My big stumble,
literally, of the day happened next.
I ran into the change tent as a volunteer
opened my bike transition bag and started
handing me my gear. I slipped on
my shoes, sunglasses, race belt and helmet,
thanked the volunteer then rushed out of the
change tent to my bike. My bike was
racked near the run exit which was on the
far side of transition. I
thought I'd take a shortcut and run down a
vacant row towards my bike instead of
sticking to the wide lanes. For some
reason I didn't see the bright yellow,
concrete parking barrier in the middle of
the row. Of COURSE I had to
stumble and trip over it in dramatic
fashion. I went flying, landing
on my knees and palms. Hopefully
this WAS NOT one of the moments that the NBC
guys caught on camera. I
immediately felt a sharp pain in my right
knee and noticed it was scuffed and
bleeding. Heh, only I could get
road rash and I haven't even touched my bike
yet! I dusted off my hands and shook
off the fall best I could. I
grabbed my bike and ran out of transition to
the mount line. The lingering pain in
my right knee lasted the rest of the day but
it wouldn't deter my efforts.
The bike went
up and over the bay bridge twice which was
really the only 'hill' on the course.
It was a pleasant surprise that when I got
to the top of the bridge Philippe and Boggs
were waiting at the top to cheer me on.
Both screamed encouragement as I crested the
bridge and geared low so I could fly down
the other side. The bike course
wound in and out of neighborhoods in
Clearwater before making its way out of town
to the turn around at mile 28. I was
averaging around 20 mph for most of the
course and I was still being passed left and
right. The cyclists on the
course today were world class athletes so
there was no use trying to keep up with
them. I just vowed to race my own race
and not worry about who was in front or
behind me. Even though I was
going 20mph for most of the bike I didn't
want to be last so you know me?
Hammertime? No! No hammertime! Hammertime bad and
hammertime makes the coach angry. :)
The only thing
that really bothered me quite a bit was when
I would be passed by 100 - 150 cyclists all
traveling together in a huge pelotons.
I know there were plenty of twists and turns
on the course that would cause some bunching
but these guys were CLEARLY cheating.
I know the race officials were out on
motorcycles but there was no way they could
penalize 150 cyclists at a time.
I was visited
by the NBC sports camera crew a couple times
on the bike. They rode up next
to me on the motorcycle and spent 10 - 15
minutes each time getting footage of me
riding. I did my best to keep my 'game
face' on and not look at them but I have to
admit it was a little distracting.
I did my best
to keep my heart rate at 120 for the ride
but excitement got the best of me a few
times and I know it spiked to 150+ for a few
minutes here and there. All in all I
had a good bike. I was a few
seconds over 3 hours which was exactly what
the plan called for. I was on
pace, as I sped to the dismount line, to
have my 6.5 hour race. My
gastric system would have other plans for me
for the run though...
I handed my
bike off to the volunteer, grabbed my run
transition bag and headed to the changing
tent. I quickly put on my took off my
bike gear, put on my running shoes and
shuffled out the door for my 13.1 mile run.
The 13.1 mile,
two loop course went up and over the steep
bay bridge before winding through the
multi-million dollar homes that lines the
waterfront near downtown Clearwater.
My knee was aching quite a bit from my
tumble over the parking barrier in T1 but I
realized this was no time to feel sorry for
myself. A little skinned knee wasn't
going to keep me from my task at hand.
My primary goal for the run was to run the
entire time and walk the aid stations.
I made my way outside of T2 I found it a
little disconcerting to see the pro athletes
making their way to the finish line.
Damn those guys are fast! Right
outside transition I saw Kelli, Garet and
Sara. They made me smile as they held
up signs of encouragement. The sign I
remember most is the "Throw it on the
ground!" sign that was a tribute to the
SNL skit that we joked about the night
before. My buddy, injured pro
triathlete Philippe Kozub jogged alongside
shortly before the first of 4 ascents over
the steep bay bridge. he was supposed
to be racing but he injured his Achilles in
the weeks prior to the event. My
quads burned like fire on each ascent, as
Philippe offered words of encouragement.
I did my best to shorten my stride and
increase my cadence. As I
reached the top of my first ascent my
stomach turned to warn me of the impending
gastric funhouse that was to be. I've
had my nutrition down well and hadn't had
any major gastric incidents this year at any
of my other 70.3 races. Unfortunately
the gastric problems would arise for me at
the World Championship and there was nothing
I could do but just deal with it. I
would end up wasting nearly 40 minutes in
the port-o-joys on the run.
I saw my
friend, fellow weight loss extraordinaire
and newly minted Ironman from IMFL the
weekend before, Chris Boggs on the far side
of the bridge. Philippe had told me that
Boggs was on his bike somewhere near the
turnaround. A big smile stretched across my
face when I finally saw him as he shouted
words of encouragement to athletes that were
crossing his path.. When he saw me, in
classic Boggs fashion, he started yelling at
the top of his lungs,
and gentlemen, allow me to introduce Chad
Soileau of Team 464. THAT IS MY CAT
RIGHT THERE! THAT IS MY CAT!"
It surely made
my laugh and forget about the pain, if only
for a few minutes. For the rest of the race,
on the far side of the course, Boggs rode to
each of the aid stations to shout and
'announce' my approach. This helped me so
much on the 2nd loop because it surely was
lonely. The majority of the athletes were
finished so I had the course to myself.
I saw my crew
(Kelli, Garet and Sara) as I made my way to
the halfway point of the run and the start
of my second loop. After a kiss from Garet
and a high five from Kelli I started my 2nd
loop. Wait, perhaps it was the other
way around. :)
I struggled to
keep running as I made my way up the final
ascent of the bridge on the way back to the
final couple miles to the finish.
Imagine my surprise when Ironman legend,
Sister Madonna Buder ran up alongside me to
offer words of encouragement and to get me
to join her in chanting a Christian phrase
to motivate us both up the climb.
Sister Madonna won her age group at the age
of 79 years old! She's completed
over 325 triathlons INCLUDING over 35
Ironman distances. These moments, running
alongside someone I considered an icon of
triathlon and a personal hero were surreal
to say the least.
NBC Sports motorcycle camera crew visited me
a couple times on the run for around 10
minutes each time. Both times they rode
alongside me as I descended the bridge. I
was all game face except the final descent
where the cameraman started asking me
"So Chad, how
do you feel? How was your race?" he asked.
I shook my
head, trying to find the words and almost
needing to pinch myself as emotions ran
unabated through my mind.
believe that I'm at the Foster Grant Ironman
World Championship 70.3? This is
a GREAT day! The GREATEST of
days and I feel like a million bucks!
Look, right there in front of me...
that's Sister Madonna Buder! I'm
so happy to be here to participate in this
event! So very happy!" I said.
cameraman and the motorcycle driver
As I approached
the huge Ford Motivational Mile message
board Philippe warned me that Boggs has
posted something. I could only
imagine and once again, in true Boggs
fashion I read "Chad Soileau, 464 - YOU ARE
THE SEXIEST SON OF A B*$#H OUT HERE!"
The last mile
of the race was finally upon me.
69.3 miles complete and roughly 10 more
minutes to the finish line. Not
many athletes were left on the course now so
it was somewhat quiet. The police were
picking up barricades and traffic that was
stopped for the race was starting to flow
again. The pros had long
completed the race and many were probably
relaxing with an adult beverage.
I continued on as I always do. No
Tears were in
my eyes as Boggs rode along side me up to
the finish line chute yelling at me to,
"SOAK THIS IN! THIS IS YOUR MOMENT!
THIS IS THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP! NOT
EVERYONE GETS TO DO THIS! TAKE
IT IN! OPEN YOUR EYES! HOLD YOUR
HEAD UP! THIS IS IT CHAD! THIS
IS YOUR MOMENT!"
This was it...
this was my moment... everything this
year led up this... all the
swimming... all the biking...
all the running... I'm so very
proud to say that I am a triathlete.
The cheers of the crowd and the announcer
were muted in my mind as they often are at
my finish lines. I was inside myself,
reflecting on the man I used to be just over
3 years ago. The 464 pound man
that I will never be again. I
ran down the blue carpet towards the finish
line arch into the warm embrace of my family
My quote that I
had printed on the back of my race jersey
seemed fitting in the moments that led up to
the finish line...
Chest Out. No regrets. HANDLE
- Chad Soileau
I handled it.
Bib number 464 crossed the finish line in
7:11. I finished the Foster Grant Ironman World
Championship 70.3 and had one of the most
amazing days of my life.
next for Chad and Team 464? My dreams of Kona are still alive.
I'm in the lottery again this year and God
willing I may get my shot. Kona aside,
I WILL be an Ironman next year in June 2010
though. My training actually
started on November 23rd specifically for
the event. This year was my year
of the "70.3" and next year will be my year
of Iron. June 27th, 2010 at
approximately 10:18PM I will hear those
sweet, sweet words... "Chad Soileau... YOU
ARE AN IRONMAN!"
I have so many
people to thank for my experience and my
opportunity at the Foster Grant Ironman
World Championship 70.3.
One of my goals
in racing the Foster Grant Ironman World
Championship was to raise awareness to both
childhood obesity and autism. I
chose to support the Rocketkidz Foundation
and Families Helping Families. Both
organizations, in their own unique ways, are
committed to helping children live up to
their potential and live meaningful, healthy
lives. The blue band
imprinted with the colored puzzle pieces
that I wear on my left arm is to honor my
girlfriend Kelli's son Aidan who was
diagnosed with autism as a toddler.
I see and hear of his amazing potential
every day and know that with the proper
structure Aidan and other children like him
can and will live happy, healthy and
Thanks to the
army of volunteers that truly made the race
Thanks to the
Blair LaHaye and her staff (Jessica
Weidensall and Catie Case) at
Ironman for the opportunity to participate
in the race, share my story with the world
and for making me feel like a rock star the
whole time I was there. You guys truly
rock! Special thanks to Chris Ward and Matt
Thanks to all
my wonderful sponsors who made my trip to
Clearwater possible. Patrick Fellow's
from Mizuno, Aidan Gill, Mike "Godfather"
Cashio from Heads and Tails
Seafood, Dr. Andrew Hargroder & Mark Miller
of Precision Cycling.
to Quarq Power Meters for getting me
converted to train with power!
I'm so much more efficient on the bike now
after starting my training with power.
Philippe you guys both helped me get through
that run. Philippe I didn't walk
because of you man. I wanted to
but you wouldn't let me. Boggs?
Thanks for being Boggs! :)
thanks to my mentors, primary sponsors and
friends Llew Hughes from Royal Purple and
William Jones from 4th Dimension Fitness.
You guys made it happen for me and I can't
thank you enough. I respect, cherish
and value your friendship. I'm so very
proud to call you guys friends.
Most of all I
want to thank my parents, family and friends
for supporting me in my crazy hobby that is
triathlon. Garet and Sara thanks
for coming to the race and hanging out.
I enjoyed the time I got to spend with you
guys. Kelli, your support,
kindness and encouragement keep me going
and, most importantly, keep me reaching for
higher and higher goals. <:*
reading my account of the Foster Grant
Ironman World Championship 70.3.
I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I
enjoyed writing (and living) it.
Best of luck on YOUR life journey!!!!
May you reach all your goals and achieve all your dreams!