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40 Stories – Carlos Moleda – 2015

IRONMAN has a way of changing perceptions. The race has changed the face of individual endurance athletics on a grand scale.
Over the past 40-years thousands from all over the globe have celebrated in the dream realized of crossing an IRONMAN finish line. The joys bubbles over from covering 140.6 miles under their own power. And we are not talking super genetic freaks doing this. These are ordinary people exhibiting an extraordinary display of the human spirit. That has changed perceptions. And even more unlikely have been the Challenged Athletes like Carlos Moleda. They have completely stripped away and redefined the usual labels people slap onto someone who is in a wheelchair.
Carlos put this clash of perceptions in very simple terms:

“People who know me realize that being in a wheelchair isn’t really that big of a deal. It’s a hard concept to understand from the outside. What really sucks is this idea that because I’m in a chair, I must be miserable. That couldn’t be further from the truth, and I knew that perception needed to change.”
“For me personally, having the privilege to be a part of IRONMAN was what I call my “Stargate” moment. As soon as I crossed that finish line for the first time, my life went into overdrive.”

Carlos Moleda lost the use of his lower body in a firefight as a Navy SEAL in Panama. He was forever destine to be in a wheelchair.

Changing perceptions of what is possible.

But that in no way meant life was over! In 1998 Carlos came to Kona, finished his first IRONMAN World Championship and won the handcycle division. He did that again in 1999. But in 2000 another great in the sport, David Bailey, made it a head-to-head battle with Carlos. On that particular day Bailey came out on top. That too changed perceptions and affirmed IRONMAN’s tagline: Anything Is Possible.
Carlos talks with Bob Babbitt about his classic battles with David Bailey:

“Racing in Kona just happened to be the perfect platform to make a statement: “We’re athletes, just like everyone else.” And the people/triathlon community really connected with that message and welcomed us, especially when former Motocross Champion David Bailey and I went on this string of battles on the Queen K. Once people outside the “disabled community” started raving about us, we knew we’d hit our target.”

Moleda redefining endurance athletics.

Moleda came back and won again in 2004 and 2005 at which point he retired from IRONMAN competitions. That is until 2015!
At the age of 53, Carlos Moleda knew he wanted one more shot at the IRONMAN World Championship in Hawaii. It has been ten years since his last victory there. And as a 53-year old, likely no one except Carlos thought he had a shot at winning the crown. It turned out to be the most challenging conditions Moleda had ever faced. The winds were horrendous and the temperatures off the charts. In transition from bike to run he was dizzy and had to stop to regain his equilibrium.

“My last official race in Kona (my 6th time) was in 2015, at the age of 53. Can you say “Mid-Life Crisis”?”
“It was the hardest IRONMAN race I‘ve ever done. From the swim, all the way to that finish line, my body was telling me, “Dude hang it up, go drink a beer and say, ‘F*ck it!’” But mentally I felt the need to officially close that door and end things on my terms — I wasn’t going down without a fight. I had to pull out all my tricks to keep moving forward to the very end, but it was worth every single second.”

Carlos Moleda winning his 5th IRONMAN World Championship at age 53!

And what a grand finale it was! On October 10, 2015 Carlos pulled off one of the most impressive division victories in the history of the race. His time was 11:32:34. Second place finished over three-hours later in 14:36:25. That fifth World Championship victory was indeed a 40-Greatest Moments at IRONMAN!
His final shoutout goes to what makes IRONMAN possible for all of us:

“Most people think that triathlon is a one-person sport. I disagree 100%. None of it would have ever been possible without the amazing patience, support and guidance from my out-of-this-world wife and teammate, Sarah.”
“I’ve been down for the count many times, and not only has she put the pieces back together every time, she’s always the first one to say ‘yes’ to the next crazy adventure.”

Thank you Carlos. Thank you Sarah!
Click Here to find out about the Challenged Athletes Foundation who supported Carlos throughout his IRONMAN journey as well.

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