– Triathlete, Businessman, Alpinist, and Entrepreneur –
“Every time I do an Ironman, I’m inspired to do another, and crossing the finish line is one of the most rewarding experience in my lifetime”
Long before Luis Alvarez became a top Ironman triathlete and an advocate for the sport of triathlon, he was a self-described big, fat lazy couch potato who smoked too much. Luis was 21 years old with a weight more than 200 pounds, when he put out his last cigarette in 1983, got off his couch a year later and begin participating in 10-kilometer races and a half-marathon in his hometown in Monterrey, Mexico.
Luis’ first attempt into the world of sport was trying to walk 5 km with his school classmates, but he could not even walk half that distance. Luis kept running, and began swimming and biking as part of his daily training. In 1986, he competed in his first triathlon, in Laredo, Texas. “I finished fourth in my age group,” he said. “It was a wonderful experience, not just in terms of exercise, but in terms of all of the socializing that went along with it.”
By 1991, Luis felt strong enough to compete in a full long distance triathlon event in Kona, Hawaii consisting of a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bicycle ride and a marathon 26.2-mile (42.2 km) run. Since then, Luis has compiled a historic level of Ironman accomplishments, which includes 23 Consecutive years participating in Ironman triathlons, 34 Inaugural Ironman races, 18 Ironman venues that are no longer current, and 13 Ironman races completed in a row, all within a 12 month period (Nov. 12, 2012-Nov. 11, 2016). He had accumulate up today 132 full Ironman triathlons.
Luis, CEO of SAG MECASA (a producer of tank and automotive components in Mexico), took on another responsibility 14 years ago. He founded a triathlete team, named it IRONMEX and started recruiting Mexican fellows in his own country and around the Globe. His goal is to compete with this team in one major Ironman competition each year, whether held in the United States or anywhere else in the world. This organization now has 4000 members, ages 18 to 73. “We’re not a part of any federation or sanctioned club; we’re just a bunch of friends who enjoy traveling together and being part of this sport, ambassadors of our country”, Luis says. This dream started in the year 2000 when 36 Mexican competitors raced in California, USA. They competed in Florida, Utah, Wisconsin and by the year 2004, 100 members participated in Ironman Canada. Soon, Team Ironmex was 350 strong, 80 of their members being women for a race in Madison, Wiscosin. By 2008, Ironmex team became the most important organized triathlete group in the world participating in Ironman races.
Luis has competed in every venue that has conducted a full Ironman race: New Zealand, Brazil, UK, China, Arizona, Switzerland, Wisconsin, Hawaii, England, South Africa, France, Germany, Japan, Canada, Australia… and the list goes on. “Every time I do an Ironman, I’m inspired to do another, crossing the finish line is one of the most rewarding experiences in my life”. Luis says.
In December 2010, while drinking tequilas with his good friend Dave Orlowski (one of the original 13 Ironman athletes in 1978) Dave challenged Luis into completing his 100th Ironman at the 35th anniversary of the Ironman World Championship held in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii along with his son Jose Manuel. In order to reach that goal, he would need to do 10 to 12 full-distance races in each of the ensuing years. However, 2013 was to be quite a different story as Luis had to face an unexpected situation… while in Germany on a business trip, Luis was hospitalized with severe back pain due to a herniated disk in the spine. After visiting other specialists and getting the same diagnosis, he decided to have surgery on May 1st of that same year. Luis received thousands of well wishes from the triathlon community. Luis’s Doctor told him he wouldn’t be able to compete for two years, but against all odds, and with only 60 days after the surgery, not only he participated in the Ironman held in Germany, finishing it with a time of 15 hours, 1 min and 20 seconds. Furthermore, three days before that Ironman competition, Luis fulfilled one of his previous goals: make summit on Mont Blanc’s Mountain, a pending task he didn’t accomplished the prior year due to bad weather and avalanches at that time he tried to do it.
For Luis, the icing on the cake that year was crossing the finish line in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii competition along with his son who was running his first Ironman. In Luis’ words: “I realized that what one proposed to oneself, one achieves. Of course I had to walk in the running portion of the marathons… in some of them for more than 7.5 hours due to the back surgery … but, mission accomplished!”. No wonder why he’s called ‘Mr. Ironman’.
Luis thinks he’s too young to retire. He has been racing for 26 consecutive years, and one of his long-term goals is to be the oldest person in an Ironman competition. Hopefully we’re going to see him around at least for 20 more years. He already summited the 7 highest peaks on each continent. By reaching the summit of Everest, Álvarez succeeded in his quest to climb the Seven Summits – the tallest mountains on each of the seven continents.
Luis is also founder of “Asociación de Triatletas Mexicanos” (ATM), an organization that promotes the ‘Non Drafting Legal Triathlons.’ Luis applied to the Guinness Book of World Records for finishing every single Ironman race on the World Triathlon Corporation circuit. Luis is the first to admit he’s addicted to setting new goals and the feeling of adrenalin. “Ironman takes a lot of the stress out of my work life, and my work life helps distract me from the stress of racing,” he says. “Plus, I solve a lot of work problems while I’m training or racing.” Luis has spent his life as a racer founder for several nonprofit organizations. His inspirational phrase has always been: “We are just ordinary people achieving extraordinary things” confirming the statement that anything is possible!.
If you want to know more about Luis’s Mexican triathlete organization, please visit www.ironmex.com.
Luis in his own words
How does it feel to be an inspiration to others? Did you ever expect to become an inspiration?
I never thought about becoming an inspiration. As I mentioned before, it is very rewarding to put a dream in the mind of a person and change an entire life. To me anyone who wants to make a Ironman or any other major challenge in his life, you only have to decide it, and start.
Why are Triathlons so inspiring? What makes this sport so special around the world?
The perfect example is Julie Moss. The video 1986 where she is crawling before the finish line at the Ironman, was the reason why triathlons and Ironmans became famous. She has been the cause that many of us have tried to do an Ironman. For example, her inspiration was Mark Allen – six-time World Cahampion. All we’ve seen an Ironman triathlon, we were amazed at their stories.
When did you start participating in triathlons? Where was your first competition?
My first competition was in Laredo, TX in 1986. I remember my bicycle had only one day of use before the competition. I did my first Ironman in the year of 1991.
What motivates you in life?
The daily challenge, trying to get through each day, and each moment, and find my limits.
What would you say to other people with similar ambitions?
Everything is possible!
Who inspires you? Why?
My dad and my son. When my dad was 79, we did together the “Camino de Santiago” a mexican competition. We walked over 60 miles in 7 days. He was suffering from joint fibrillation, had a pacemaker and suffered from diabetes. My son, Jose Manuel, is a person who has grown up without physical limits: At the age of 6, he climbed his first mountain of 13,500 feet (Ajusco, Mexico). When he was 7, he participated in his first triathlon. At age 12, he did his first marathon, and that same year he also ran two half marathons. At age 13 he climbed his first mountain of 18,700 feet (Iztaccihuatl, Mexico) and at 18 he finished his first full Ironman.
How did you deal with obstacles in your life?
With determination and not giving up before trying. It’s a great lesson to think that about 90% of people who start an Ironman, finish it. But more than 30% who enrolled in an Ironman not even start.
What do you like most about Triathlons?
Cross the finish line! To greet all my friends, listen the cheers …being in contact with people is extraordinary.
Mention major accomplishments in your life other than triathlons
1. Being part of the transition for a company that was in bankruptcy in 1994, and today is the world’s largest manufacturer of aluminum tanks for heavy transport. 2. Have the World Record for finishing every single Ironman race on the World Triathlon Corporation circuit, after being overwright (as of today I have completed 109 Ironmans). 3. Be fully recovered, and fulfilled my goal after the Doctor’s diagnosis.
Do you support or represent any Non-Profit Organizations?.
I am founder of Ironmex, the world’s largest triathlon organization, and ATM (Association of Mexican triathletes) that promotes the spirit of triathlon team and no draft. For more information please visit: www.ironmex.com