Q & A with Pastor Jason Aguilar
Jason Aguilar is the Lead Pastor of The Cloud Church in Irvine, CA. When considering the sport of triathlon he set his sights right at completing a full Ironman. Eleven months before the race he purchased a time trial bike and started the journey from 0 triathlon experience to completing a 140.6 mile race. Under the tutelage of Coach Josh he embarked on his journey and successfully completed Ironman Arizona. While we don't encourage anyone to go from 0 to 140.6, this is a story of resilience and the potential to accomplish lofty goals with the right plan in place.
Josh: Jason, thanks for making the time to talk to us. Give us your athletic background prior to starting triathlon.
Jason: Thanks for having me. I played basketball throughout high school so I am fairly athletic. However, I wouldn’t consider myself a long distance runner and even less a swimmer and biker. So before triathlons, I didn’t have any experience to my name.
Josh: What was your motivation for starting triathlon? And why in the world did you make it a point to sign up for a full Ironman without ever having done a triathlon before?
Jason: Haha. A very good question. My motivation at its core was my first trip to Arizona in 2016 to cheer on my brother-in-law do his second Ironman. That year Lionel Sanders broke the world record. That pretty much was a game changer for me. That guy inspires me. I love to watch his workouts on Instagram. He’s a beast! But a beast with a purpose. He has goals and he knows what he is after. During that same race a gentlemen cross the finish line and the announcer proclaimed him an official Ironman but also mentioned that he was a pastor. That was my moment that led me to believe, “I can do this.”
Josh: When you began training, what was some of your early challenges?
Jason: My first challenges was not knowing what the heck I was doing. I bought a bike, but didn’t know anything about biking. I bought swim equipment and didn’t even know how to use them. One month later I was doing my first sprint. For me, it was a sink or swim situation and I was all in. So I just figured it out as I went along.
Josh: You were literally thrown into a 70.3 by your brother-in-law when his friend backed out of the race. I mean, you did your first open water swim at IM Oceanside 70.3. Tell us about that day and what you learned from that experience.
Jason: Well, I had 2 days notice and wasn’t really ready for what I was going to experience. That morning was freezing and I wasn’t totally prepared to swim. I had never swam in open water before and never in the ocean. So as you can imagine it was a train wreck waiting to happen. I was able to do a pre-swim and I couldn’t swim even 10 yards without gagging from the nasty salt water. But I made up my mind, “I don’t care what happens with the time limit, I’m just going to keep going until they tell me to stop or I cross the finish line.” And that’s what I did. When I jumped in the water my eyes started to burn and then I realized I forgot to pull my goggles down. Rookie mistake. I pretty much doggy paddled, backstroked, freestyled, and floated my way to the transition area. I swam the 1.2 mile swim in 1 hour and 3 minutes making the cut by 7 minutes. I jumped on my bike and was so happy to be out of the water. But 24 miles into my ride I was hit with climbs that I had no idea of how to get over them. I remember one particular hill was so steep I had to get off my bike and run it up the hill. But again I just made the cut by a few minutes. And then I got on the run to face cramps with only 5 miles left. It was a pretty exciting finish because I was the last Ironman 70.3 to cross the finish line by seconds. But I did it and man was it a challenge.
Josh: Now after that race you were able to start getting help from a Coach, how did that experience begin to change things for you in your training?
Jason: Coaching was a game changer. I was doing so many things wrong. I was wasting time and energy on a certain way of training. Coaching is directive and demands accountability. Good coaches aren’t trying to keep you in line, they are trying to help you keep your commitments. My coach was amazing. He helped me focus on getting into immediate action, while addressing barriers and giving me support to get moving quickly. There were some immediate results and some results that transpired over time. But coaching is a MUST if you’re going to be successful.
Josh: What was the first race you did with your coach and tell us a little bit about how that went?
Jason: My first race with a coach was LifeTime Tri Tempe, AZ. This was a good gauge of what Ironman was going to be like. This was an Olympic distance so the swim was 1500 meters. I had done an Olympic distance mid-year and swam the 1500 meters in about 48 minutes. I shaved off about 10 minutes by doing a 38 minute swim for that race. I also biked the 24 miles in about 1:24 and the run about an hour. The only reason my run was so slow was because I ran with no socks which was stupid. My feet were bleeding by the end of the race. I’ll never do that again.
Josh: OK, so now we are up to speed on the big race, Ironman Arizona. Heading into that race how were you feeling?
Jason: Honestly, I was really confident going into the race because I trained. I put in the work. I didn’t put in as much work as I wished I could have because of my pastoral responsibilities. But I can say that I put in the work that I could possibly have do with the work schedule. So I was confident. I knew I was going to swim well, bike solid, and go all out on the run.
Josh: How did the race play out for you?
Jason: The race was an AMAZING experience. I had 18 people go with me to Arizona. At the finish line, the mayor of my city was waiting for me at the finish line. She flew out just to watch me race. That was real special. I swam a PR 1:34. My bike was a little slow 7:49, but I made up for it with a 5 hour marathon. I felt so good at the finish line. Finishing Ironman was my fifth triathlon of the year completing my drive for five! I teared up as I hugged my family and friends. My mission was accomplished.
Josh: What do you attribute your successful rookie year to?
Jason: My success came from three things: Guidance (Coaching), Cheering (Lots and lots of people in my corner), and a desire to finish no matter what (passion). That combination is a powerful chemistry.
Josh: Any final words to our readers before we sign off?
Jason: You can keep going and your body will hurt for a week or you can quit and your mind will hurt for a lifetime. I’d rather pay the price of pain than endure the pain of regret. Don’t settle. Don’t fall short of what you know you were meant to do. Keep your chin up and keep your heart in the race. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. And never ever think something is beyond your reach. No dream is too far fetched if you’re committed. Godspeed!