While many pick a path of least resistance, a growing tribe has begun to buck the trend, pursuing physical and mental adversity all in the name of a goal. On Sunday, July 10, Project Bike Love co-founder Belen Ramirez Bourdages did just that, lining up for her first Iron Man 70.3 in Windsor, California.
Project Bike Love: Belen. You just completed your first Iron Man 70.3. Congratulations! What first sparked your interest in endurance sports?
Belén Ramirez: Last year I was in Chad, completing a mission with MSF (Doctors Without Borders). For security reasons, I was only able to run laps around our compound. When security was better, I started running outside the compound with kids following me. One time I was asked by soldiers, what was I doing? It was clearly an odd situation to have a woman running for fun. That day I cut my run shorter and went back home to finish my book, A Life Without Limits by Chrissie Wellington. It was the first time I was reading about Ironman distances. At the time I was doing sprint duathlons with my husband and I did one sprint triathlon in 2015. The distance was “too short” for me, I wanted to keep going. After the soldier asked me to stop, it made me realize once again how lucky we are for having the opportunities we have! So I decided there, I was going to do an Ironman 70.3.
PBL: How did you train for the event? Did you have a coach?
BR: I didn’t have a coach. I knew I was a very self-motivated person, so I would never have the issue of needing someone to tell me to work out, my biggest issue would be to learn to not overdo it. I read about training,nutrition, and hydration. I went to swim lessons, as I’m not a swimmer. I didn’t really follow a plan, but I worked out for an average of 12 hours a week for 12 weeks. I had some really fun weeks where I had 18 hours of work out. But at the same time, I had times when I was traveling and couldn’t work out that much and that was okay with me, I just make the most out of every situation.
PBL: The event itself; how was it?
BR: Epic! A blast! The swim was the most challenging part for me because I’m not a swimmer and my shoulder was hurting. I had this huge smile on the whole course though. Volunteers at aid stations are so awesome, and then you’re surrounded by crazy people just like you! None of us were going to podium but we were just doing it for the love of doing it!
PBL: Were you happy with your performance at the event?
BR: I was and still am very happy! I paced myself so well that even with a run that wasn’t my best, I finished in a time of 6 hours and 37 minutes, placing me in the top 1/3 of my age group. I didn’t push it, I listened to my body and I finished strong with a huge smile and still with energy in my tank.
PBL: With a half Iron Man completed, what are your athletic sights now set on?
BR: Two days after Vineman, I signed up for the 2017 St George Ironman 70.3 event. It’s hilly and in altitude so, it’s a perfect next challenge. I have an unusual life, I’m going on a mission for 3 months where I won’t be able to work out. That’s why I say I train for life, I want to be this 80-year-old woman traveling the world, and carrying her own luggage. I train my body and my mind to be able to do whatever I tell them to do.
PBL: Finally, what advice would you give to someone wanting to pursue, not just an Iron Man, but any sporting challenge?
BR: Whatever you do, do it because you love it. Learn to love your body for what it allows you to do and not for what it looks like.