TeamSFQ Kona Profile: Pamela Batungbacal

TeamSFQ Kona Profile: Pamela Batungbacal

Name:  Pamela Batungbacal

Hometown:  Tucson, AZ

Number of Ironmans Completed: 12

Number of Hawaii Ironmans Completed: 0

Where You Kona Qualified:  Legacy Program

Began my journey when I met my husband and we got married 30 years ago today (10-7-89) and he gave me a book by Dave Scott to read while traveling.  I was hooked and wanted to do this crazy thing one day.  WE spent our Honeymoon at the Kona WC 1989 and witnessed the epic war between Mark Allen and Dave Scott.  I had kids and put triathlon off and way in the back of my mind.  I had knee surgery, back surgery, shoulder dislocation and multiple minuscule tears in my Achilles before I began training for my first full IM Florida in 2002.  I wanted to complete one by the age of 45 and I did.  I went on to do 5 more within a few years, ending in 2006 when I did three in one year, while working full time and raising young children.  I would take a year off here or there sometimes even 2-3 years off, but I always came back.  In 2013 is when I learned about the Legacy Program where you have to complete 12 full IM races and you earn spot at the WC in Kona.  I had already signed up for IMAZ for my #7 in 2014 so it seemed very doable.  In October 2017 I finished my 12th full IM and qualified for Kona WC through the Legacy Program.  It has been a crazy year for 2019 with a lot of family obligations taking me away from my training and then I had to have my Gall Bladder removed in July 3 months out from Kona.  I have worked extremely hard to get here and hoping it will somehow pay off on race day. This has been a dream for 30 years as my husband and I celebrate our 30th Anniversary here as well.  

The Journey

In 2001 I had done a couple of short triathlons and one HIM “Vineman” when I decided it was time to do a full Ironman distance triathlon. I wanted to do a full Ironman Triathlon when I was 45 years old. I signed up for Florida IM 2002.  Completed Vineman HIM a second time for training and went after Florida with gusto.  No coach.  Just read every book I could get my hands on. I never knew people actually got coaches! I did everything myself, with my husband.  I didn’t even tell him I had planned on doing a full IM until a few months into my training.  It never occurred to me that I would not finish the race.  I just did it.  The week of the race I couldn’t sleep or eat I was so nervous.  I finally got up in the middle of the night before the race and checked my heart rate and it was 122!  RESTING!  But race day when I saw everyone on the beach I realized that we were all doing this together and we all had to do the same thing and I finally was able to relax. Fast forward and I went on to complete 6 more full Ironman races.  I did three in one year, 2006, while raising kids and working full time.  Often I would ride my bike to their sporting event, and at their soccer practices I would run round their fields for my run.  When my son was in Cross Country running I ran too and went to areas that also had strength equipment and did those as I ran past them.  I would go to work at 0330 in the morning to swim so I could get to briefing by 0600.  I rode my bike back home to a friends who rode with me.  Then drove the rest of the way home.  On days I did not swim, I would go lift before work.  Or I would lift during lunch when I worked swing shift or graveyards.  (I loved graveyards. Haha). On my 3 or 4 days off depending on which shift I worked is when I did all my triathlon workouts.  Never thought to work out 6 days a week with one day off.  I just did what I could when I could.  Some weeks more than others.  Some days I couldn’t even do anything as I was too exhausted to do much more than work. I had read that if you can do half the distance you can do the full distance.  You would not win, of course, but you would finish.  And I truly believed that.  So I never worried about doing too much of anything so long as I did half! I took a few years off here and there but would always pick it back up.  I retired from Law Enforcement in August of 2007.  I went to work for Starbucks.  For the fun of it.  When I worked I often went into Starbucks and knew one day I just wanted to do it.  I worked there for 5 1/2 years and got the bug back in 2010 to do another triathlon. I did Texas Inaugural IM which was my first DNF.  The heat and humidity were too much for me after the first of three loops on the run and I was hanging onto light poles as I passed each one.  I took some time off again but in 2013 I did the last Lake Stevens HIM and heard about the Legacy Program for Kona WC.  I had done 6 already and was signed up for my 7th at IMAZ in 2014. I then resigned my Barista duties from Starbucks in November 2013 and began the quest to complete 5 more full IM races and qualify for Kona through the legacy program with the required 12.
In 2007 when I retired from Law Enforcement I was 50 years old.  By the time I began this new quest I was 56.  The training has always been the most fun.  The races were just the challenge I needed.  I had good races and bad races.  It has been a crazy few years to get those necessary 5 races to get my 12 completed.  I signed up for 2 races each year.  I did Boulder IM in 2015 and oh my goodness the altitude about did me in.  Somehow I managed to finish that one, but barely.  I couldn’t eat the entire race until I got my special needs bag during the run and I was finally able to eat a sandwich.  Gotta love those crustables!  I then flew to Maryland for the race there.  When I landed and still in the airplane I was notified the race had been cancelled due to the Hurricane.  The race site was actually flooded.  I was very lucky and got one of the 50 spots into IMAZ.  I lived in CA so the trip to AZ was an easy one. 
In 2016 I signed up for IM Canada, Whistler and Maryland again so I could actually do that race.  However, Whistler didn’t go too well for me and again another DNF.  This one hurt really bad.  Still not sure I will ever get over it.  I had trained harder than I ever had. Did century rides with 10,000 feet of climbing.  15%-17% grades on some of those climbs.  But it came down to my nutrition.  I had changed things up as everyone kept telling me all this stuff about how I needed this and that so I found something I thought worked.  It did in training and I followed it to a tee.  I was so excited my nutrition was spot on until I began the climb back into town.  I have never cramped in my life like I did trying to climb.  Like both legs at the same time causing me to nearly fall off my bike.  I stopped and stretched. Back on to only do it again and again and again.  When my side and back hurt so bad I was concerned more about internal injuries, I decided to pull myself from the race so that I could still do Maryland.  Doing the Legacy Program required you finish a race two years in a row and be signed up for another full race when you apply.  So I couldn’t waste a year not finishing a race.  Besides it would put me back from the timeline I wanted.  I did finish IMMD, although they cancelled the swim due to the high tide and treacherous waters the lifeguards couldn’t even get out there to support us. 
In 2017 I signed up for IM Lake Placid and AGAIN Maryland.  I really enjoyed the Cambridge area and I got a super discount since the race in 2016 had a cancelled swim.  But I also knew that IMLP would be my 12th race and IMMD would be a back up race if I needed it.  Well the week before IMLP I got a bad side ache that lasted two days and put me in the ER where they discovered I was a lot sicker than I thought and had diverticulitis. They had me on heavy antibiotics and even though my Dr’s anesthesiologist had done Kona the year before so he totally understood, told me no way I could do IMPL.  The disappointment was huge.  But I was really sick.  Stayed in the hospital for 4 days and sent home with double antibiotics for two more weeks.  It actually took me 4 months to fully recover.  But now I HAD to do IMMD.  It’s such a great race and I love going there.  IMMD was my 12th race and qualified me to apply for the Legacy Program. 
I got my notification from the WTC in February/March of 2018 that I had a guaranteed spot for Kona in 2019.  I was signed up for Boulder IM again as I had to be signed up for a full in order to apply.  However, my husband’s job was done the end of 2017 and we decided to move to Tucson in April.  I did not train at all, but an occasional run and bike with very little swimming.  I had ST George HIM in May a few weeks later.  I went just to see what I could do.  I finished the race.  Had a blast.  But still another DNF as I finished way beyond the time limit.  It was expected as STG is one of the hardest if not the hardest HIM in N America.  I transferred IM Boulder to IM Wisconsin later in the year.  No way could I be ready to do Boulder.  But I was lucky enough to have HIM Santa Rosa to do and was told by the WTC I only needed to complete a half in order to validate my Kona spot.  I finished Santa Rosa and what a relief. I went to IM Wisconsin, still not in good shape as now they thought I had cancer and was being tested for months to finally determine I did NOT have cancer.  The mental fortitude to try and train just wasn’t there.  My husband was going through some issues as well and my plate had more than I could handle let alone worry about training.  I just wanted the year over so I could start anew and begin my training for KONA!
It’s now 2019, and I am 62 years old.  Again, I had to validate my Kona spot with at least a HIM completed race.  I did HIM Texas, Galveston.  Not sure if they would give me the validation as they pulled all of us off the course due to a huge storm with lightning.  Luckily, I got the validation and could concentrate on training for Kona.  I did St George HIM, my revenge race since I DNF’d it the year before. Finished that.  Then out of the blue decided to do IM Boulder to see where my status in training was at.  Not quite full distance worthy but I did manage to finish that one too.  But I was now so excited to focus solely on Kona. HOWEVER, my body had other plans. The week after I got home from Boulder I went into the hospital for surgery having my gall bladder removed.  They told me I could begin training 7-10 days but it would be light training.  And it was.  For three weeks.  It took me longer than I wanted but I could barley get into the aero position on the trainer for two weeks then I finally felt like myself.  But now I had a lot of catching up to do as Kona was 3 months out.
I have had a crazy year with a lot of life events having to travel unexpectedly or at least not planned causing breaks in my training. Mostly family obligations.  Its not easy when your parents are in their 90’s and you have a lot to do for them.  Just hoping I can live as long as they do/did.  My stepfather passed away in May at the age of 96!  My Mom turned 90 in April and still going strong. RACE WEEKI knew Kona was a beast and I would finally need a coach. I had a coach for a short time for IMPL and it went well but I wanted someone who had experience doing the WC race.  I contacted Hillary Biscay, as I was an ambassador for the SFQ team, and I adored and respected Hillary immensely.  She has a team of coaches and she recommended Mary Knott.  I have been with Mary since November 1, 2018. She has worked my butt off at times and I really appreciated those hard workouts.  We have had some ups and downs, as I am sure all coach/athlete teams may have, and I am hoping I am ready to get through this crazy race I have been dreaming of for 30 years now.  It will be my husband and my 30th Anniversary as well this week, so not only is this a super special week to be able to do what I am doing in triathlon, but also a full circle for us to be back her to celebrate our Anniversary as well.  So far the week has been amazing.  Although I am not liking the trade winds too much. Just sayin’.

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