I am very proud to announce that two of my athletes are running in the Boston Marathon today! Alissa Ackerman and my father, Tony Garcia. I am very proud of both of them, and I hope they have an amazing experience. To follow them with text updates you can text 13601 for my dad and 16936 for Alissa to 234567
Lets rewind to the year 2009.
Fresh out of the military I found myself back home in Colorado trying to find a way to settle in to life as a civilian. One aspect of my military life that I refused to let become stagnant was my physical fitness.
This was the year I became a believer in what CrossFit could do for ME.
In 2010 I found myself in a position to coach CrossFit, and that ignited my desire to share my passion of fitness with others. I wanted anyone and everyone to come to my gym to train with me or come join my gym and let me coach them. At this point in time I wanted my father to join, and even went so far as offering to pay for his intro sessions and first month (I wasn’t a gym owner at the time, and trained and coached at a different gym in town). My dad simply told me that he was a runner…and running was his thing.
In the following years I wasn’t nearly as pushy with trying to get him to join as I initially was, but every now and then I would drop subtle remarks and hints that I still felt he should give it a try. He remained extremely supportive of my CrossFit endeavors, but still told me his focus was running, and his interest never peaked further than supporting me from the sideline.
In the spirit of CrossFit in “being ready for the unknown and unknowable” and just for the aspect of some father-son bonding, I opted to run a handful of half marathons with my dad (and I use the term “with” very loosely, as he would always be 5-15 minutes ahead of me, waiting at the finish line). I learned a lot about myself, but more importantly I learned about my dad’s athleticism and more importantly his passion as a runner.
Between 2010 and 2014 he ran several races, and since we shared that common interest I would always ask him how his training was going, or how his races went, or what was next on his schedule. We talked about his good races, his bad races, and other noteworthy aspects of his travels and races.
In talking with him I began to notice a pattern to his running. From what he was telling me, race after race he would start very strong, but by the end of his races he was left feeling like he had no gas left in the tank. This made him doubtful that we would beat his PR’s or even improve as a runner. I will never forget when he told me that he felt at his age he had reached the point where he wasn’t confident he would be capable of getting any better. This didn’t sit well with me because even then I knew that was far from the truth.
Fast forward to 2013.
He reveals his goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon, and makes a fan page on Facebook to share his journey. I am excited for him and I ask how he plans to train. He tells me he wants to mix things up a bit and incorporate some strength training and high intensity training in his regiment. At this point in time I now OWN a CrossFit gym in town, and have been coaching CrossFit athletes in the area for 3, going on 4 years. What he is saying is music to my ears, and I prepare to drop the CrossFit bomb on him again, but he dropped the bomb on me. He tells me that he found himself a personal trainer to help him with those strength, intensity, and fitness goals. I mask my disdain, “Oh really? Tell me more…what kind of training have you been doing?” To which he replies, “Well, I have been doing a lot of wallballs, box jumps, sled drags, kettlebell swings, and burpees…” Granted these movements are used a lot of ways, they are some of the more popular exercises used in CrossFit. You know…CrossFit…something your son coaches…something your son has made a living/business of…something your son has been trying to rope you into for 4 years now…Admittedly I was a tad bitter at the thought of someone else training my father.
To clarify, I mean no disrespect to any coach or trainer, I was just being jealous. (Shout out to the other trainer, Charis, I have never met you but Kit and Jourdan spoke extremely highly of you, and that helped soften the blow that my dad was working with you and not me, plus you are cuter than I am, so there was that. But thank you for helping open the door to my father’s athletic potential. I know he is extremely grateful for the work you put in for him, and so am I.)
He worked hard, and was on the right track in running his first qualifying time for Boston, but was not satisfied with his time. He felt he was right on the cusp and that he needed a faster time to have a chance at qualifying. At this point the number of qualifying races that he could run were dwindling, so time was not on his side. He found a race to run in Hastings, Nebraska. He went in to this race with high hopes, but bad weather, bad juju, and a wrong turn left his hopes at a better qualifying time in shambles.
I spoke with him after this race, and again I won’t forget the level of disappointment I heard in his voice. He wanted to settle, and just leave it to chance in hopes that his first qualifying time would get him to Boston. I asked him if there was another race he could run. He said there was one, but he was skeptical if he could. He said he felt like he had already been training so hard, that he felt he was on the brink of being burnt out. It was time for me to pop the question again, but this time I changed my approach.
“Dad, let me train you.” I said, “Let me help you.” I told him my observation of the aforementioned trend in where he was never able to finish races the way he wanted. I told him I didn’t want to make him a CrossFitter, I wanted to make him a STRONGER runner. He agreed, and with a month and a half to train, we hit the ground running.
Ideally I would have liked 3 months to prepare a more well rounded program, but we didn’t have time on our side for this go-round. I told him I wanted to create workouts that would make him feel like he was in the later miles of his runs. AMRAPs, Tabatas, workouts for time, supplemental endurance work on the airdyne and rower, accessory strength work for loads, I threw all of it at him, and the transformation I saw in those few weeks was amazing.
Sometimes it is hard for the athlete to see progress, but as a coach, it was plain as day to me. I watched my dad’s movement patterns improve, I watched his levels of intensity reach new heights, and I watched him push his threshold for work capacity.
I watched my dad become a stronger athlete.
Most of you know the rest of the story from here.
He ran his last-chance-to-qualify marathon, and set a new qualifying time that was better than the first. With that time he secured his spot in the 2015 Boston Marathon.
Since qualifying last year we continued to train. We mixed CrossFit with his running program and I continued to put him through the ringer any chance I could. I am proud to say that he continued to transform.
Everything from his strength, to his recovery, to even his power off the tee box in his golf game had improved.
He took a chance on me, and I am honored and humbled at the dedication and effort he put fourth for me when the stakes of his success involved such a big dream for him.
That dream stage is set for tomorrow. (Err today by the time I get this posted).
I heard a quote from a movie this weekend that I had to share with him.
“If you can take it, you can make it…” I told him for the past 9 months I have watched him take it, and now it is his time to make it, and I have no doubt in my mind that he will.
Dad, I admire your work ethic, I am inspired and impressed by your attitude, and I am extremely jealous that you have more of a social media presence than I do…but we are all rooting for you.
I wish I could be there to watch you live your dream and cross that finish line. I am proud of you.
Trust the process, trust your training, trust your strength.
Enjoy your moment.
“Think like a bumblebee, train like a racehorse”