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This former “professional couch potato” completed his 100th Ironman.
It was a tequila-filled night in 2008 when Luis Alvarez decided on his lofty goal: complete 100 Ironmans by the 35th anniversary of the Ironman World Championship in 2013. Five years later on Oct. 12, Alvarez completed his 100th race on schedule when he crossed the finish line in Kona. Alvarez’s journey to 100 started in his late 20s. The 51-year-old says he was a “professional couch potato” when he was younger— he smoked since age 12, weighed more than 200 pounds and never did any form of exercise in his life. At 24, he had a wakeup call when he couldn’t make the three-mile walk to school. His walks turned into runs, and eventually those runs transitioned into triathlon and ultimately Ironman. “It was in my blood and since then I haven’t stopped,” he says. “This is my source of energy.”
As the CEO of the largest fuel tank manufacturer in the world, Alvarez needs that energy. He often works 12-hour days and frequently travels for work, not to mention that he lives and trains in bustling Mexico City, which comes with its own host of challenges.“I live in stress,” he says. “But I use Ironman to take the stress from my work and my work to take stress from the Ironman.”
One of his workarounds for a hectic travel schedule is to race near where he goes for business. This plan has helped him accomplish another record, racing every single Ironman course ever created, including ones that no longer exist (Malaysia, St. George, New York City and more).
Achieving his goal didn’t come without setbacks. Last May, Alvarez had to have back surgery for a ruptured disk and was told no racing for two years. A second opinion allowed him to accelerate the healing process to 50 days, but because of his looming October deadline, he was forced to cram in five Ironmans in five weeks (hence the five race bands, pictured above). His streak culminated with the hilly and cold Ironman Lake Tahoe, where he had his first close call with the 17-hour cutoff. Adding another layer to Alvarez’s accomplishment was that his 18-year-old son joined him in Kona as the youngest competitor in the field. They finished together in 15:54, a moment Alvarez says he will never forget.
Now that 100 is done, there’s the inevitable question of “what’s next?” His future goals are just as lofty as his first—he wants to climb the “Grand Slam,” the seven highest peaks in the world. And he wants to climb all of them the same week that he does an Ironman. He’ll climb Cusco in Peru the same week as Ironman Australia, ascend Mount Kilimanjaro the same week as South Africa, and so on. And, of course, at some point he plans to cross the English Channel and run the Great Wall Marathon in China.
“Everybody says I’m crazy, but I take it as a compliment,” Alvarez says. “Because crazy is special. … Everybody has a story in this in- credible sport.”