Luis Alvarez finished the 2013 Ironman World Championship on Saturday in Kona, crossing the finish line in just under 16 hours (15:54:50). And while that is an impressive accomplishment in and of itself, it's even more amazing when you learn it was Alvarez's 100th career Ironman finish.
Alvarez, a 51-year-old from Mexico City and member of the Timex Multisport Team, ran his first Ironman race in Hawaii in 1991, and hasn't stopped competing since. But his journey really began much earlier than that.
When he still a child, Alvarez was overweight, and couldn't manage to finish a 2.5-mile walk in school. "I was the only one who couldn't finish. Everything was in pain. So I said, 'I have to change something.'"
Walking became a 5K, became a 10K, became a half-marathon, became a marathon, became Ironman racing. Since his first Ironman finish line in 1991, Alvarez has completed at least one a year, and along the way has compiled an historical level of Ironman accomplishments:
- 22 Consecutive years participating in IRONMAN.
- 33 Inaugural Ironman races
- 18 Ironman venues that are no longer current
- 13 Ironman races completed in a row, all within a 12 month period (Nov. 12, 2012 - Nov. 11, 2013)
Reaching Ironman No. 100 was no small feat -- Alvarez had to compete in 10-12 Ironman races per year in 2011, 2012 and 2013. And then when injury struck earlier this year, it forced Alvarez to adjust his race schedule, and suddenly No. 100 looked to be in doubt. But no problem, because Alvarez simply finished four races in four weeks across three continents: Sweden, Canada (Whistler), Japan, and the U.S. (Wisconsin).
Shortly before Alvarez competed in Ironman race No. 100 in Kona -- the first with his 18-year-old son -- I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about what it all means to him, and what comes next.
Stride Nation: You're going for Ironman race No. 100 ... What keeps you going? Why not just retire?
Luis Alvarez: I'm too young to retire. I've been doing it for 23 years, and one of my long-term goals when I started was to be the oldest person in an Ironman. So, it's a long road to be there. So, at least 20 more years dong this ... If I finish my 100th, I'm going to take a little more time with mountaineering. I'm doing the grand slam -- the highest mountain in every continent.
Which of the 99 Ironman races was your favorite, and which was your least favorite?
I know the least favorite, for sure. The Ironman UK [in Bolton, England, 2009] -- weather, muddy -- it was not the toughest, but I did not like it.
Several favorites: Cozumel, Kona ... Ironman France -- it's beautiful ... Ironman Wisconsin -- the people are beautiful. I have a lot of favorites.
You've been racing Ironman for over 20 years ... how has technology -- like Timex GPS watches, etc. -- changed during that time, and how has it helped your training and recovery?
My first Ironman was in Kona, in 1991, and Timex was "ON" and "LAP," that's it. Now it's very friendly -- now you can see your time, your distance, your speed, your pace. You can know your fastest course, what you did right, what you did wrong -- and of course, the heart rate monitor. Technology has been helping us to perform better.
Describe what it will be like to race along side your son ...
[huge grin] That will be the cherry on the pie. That will be one of my best days in my life. He's 18 years old ... I started [Ironman racing] five years before he was even born, so now with him ... I never thought about doing an Ironman. He was a kid, and I never thought to push him to do an Ironman. But two years ago, here was here [in Kona], just 16-years-old, and he said to me, "Dad, can I do your 100th Ironman with you?"
It will be one of my best days in my life, to share with him 17 hours without TV, without GameBoy, without anything but him and me, and the ocean and a bicycle.
What comes next for you after Saturday?
Sunday. [laughs] A lot of work. I have a lot of things to do -- our company has doubled in size the last two years, so it's a lot of things with business. And it's many other things, other challenges, like crossing the Channel, climb the seven highest peaks -- if everything goes right, I'll climb Everest in the next two years.
Video of Luis Alvarez speaking with Ironman.com's Dave Erickson before Ironman Lake Tahoe this year, Alvarez's 99th race: