Rudy Garcia-Tolson was born with multiple birth defects and after many, many operations to his legs, he told his parents he would rather be a double amputee. Rudy became a great swimmer, triathlete and warrior and in November of 09 became an Ironman. But his amazing attitude is most impressive.
Slowtwitch: Rudy, what have you been up to since we last saw you in Arizona?
Rudy: Well I just got done swimming at the Paralympic swimming World Champs in Eindhoven, Netherlands. Team USA had an amazing meet and I always love being apart of the team because we are a big family. I ended my meet with a gold and bronze and am very happy with my performances. In March of this year I moved out to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and have been focusing only on swimming.
ST: Did you enjoy your time in the Netherlands outside the swimming competitions?
Rudy: I wish we could have spent more time around, but we came home right after competition.
ST: What is next for you?
Rudy: My current goal is to make the 2012 Paralympic team in swimming. I would also like to go back to Kona, but I’m going to wait for the right moment. I want to start up school as well which is harder than I thought, but it needs to be done.
ST: Which school are you attending and what are you studying?
Rudy: I am currently not in school but I am going to be attending sometime in the near future.
ST: In Arizona when you heard the words “Rudy Garcia-Tolson, you are an Ironman,” what went through your mind?
Rudy: Finishing an Ironman has always been a goal of mine since I was young. The whole idea of doing Ironman always seemed to be “impossible” but I love doing those types of things. Training for Ironman turned out to be harder than I imagined. It took a big toll on my lower back and my stumps but I learned a lot along the way. When I heard the words “you are a ironman,” I was in awe. All of the hard work I put it finally paid off. It was an amazing feeling.
ST: How soon after Kona did you decide to race in Arizona?
Rudy: I got home from Kona and I didn’t want to wait another year or so to try it again. So about a week after Kona I was entered in IM AZ. I’m not gonna lie, I was scared of failing twice. BIG thanks to Paul Huddle for helping me with that.
ST: How did Paul Huddle help you leading up to AZ?
Rudy: Huddle has always been a big help since day one. He always helped me with whatever I needed and I still get the joy of kicking his butt in the pool but not on the bike (laughs)
ST: Your athlete tracker numbers from IMAZ were quite impressive. Do you think more is possible?
Rudy: There is no doubt in my mind, my next Ironman will have much different numbers. What I did in Arizona was scratching the surface of what I want to do. My tri coach Muddy Waters and I have big plans for Ironman. The question I keep asking myself is, when?
ST: Well, tell us about your race day in Arizona.
Rudy: IM AZ was one hell of a day. It was a cold morning and I didn’t get much sleep the night before. The one thing I remember most was that, before I got into the cold lake, as I was walking through the crowd in the dark without my legs on, everyone started to clap and cheer for me. I got goose bumps all over my body. I was in awe. All these people were racing 140 miles and I knew they had a million things going through their head and still they took the time to clap for me. I have the upmost respect to all those racers for honoring me like that. At that point I knew I had to finish this thing.
The swim went well despite the fact that my goggles broke two minutes before the start. It is what it is. It took me 10 minutes to get warm after the swim before I got on the bike. The first loop I felt awesome. That didn’t last long, though. I got a flat on the second lap and my back started to give me problems. The 3rd loop felt like 20 hours. I remember on that loop, I had to piss. My biking legs have a carbon fiber bucket at the bottom before it connects to the foot and I remember it filled up with piss and made my legs heavy. I had to unclip and empty them out. I thought it was interesting I had to empty my leg of piss. On the last leg of the bike, I saw Muddy Waters, Bob Babbitt and Peter Harsch and they gave me the motivation to push through and I got off the bike with 45 minutes to spare. I got in the changing room and had myself a turkey sandwich and hot cheetos. Best real food meal ever. I still had a marathon to run which I never did before. The run ended up being like my bike. 1st loop was great, 2nd started to hurt a lot, and 3rd was just trying to stay upright. I got to mile 22 and laid on the ground for about 10 minutes to figure out what was happening. My body was shutting down but my mind was trying to keep it going. I found out what Ironman was all about. Mind over body. 2,000 other people that did the race felt the same thing. Being my first time experiencing that, I thought I was losing my mind. But I couldn’t stop, so I just went for it. I like to think I had a strong finish.
ST: You had a strong finish indeed. As for your bike it appears the setup was different from Kona. Who set you up on your bike?
Rudy: Elliott over at Concept Cyclery was a huge help with adapting the Cannondale. He and Muddy figured out I need to use more of my abs and less of an aerodynamic position to power me through the hills and longer distances. So they put on mountain bike type bars and Matt made some custom made shifters, which made my life a heck of a lot easier. A big thank you to Concept Cyclery for making my bike fast!
ST: The Hawaii race did not work the way you most likely had wanted. Share with us what happened that day in Kona.
Rudy: Besides not making the bike cut off, I had a blast in Kona. I would like to thank all the world class athletes who raced in Kona for letting me share the course with them. I didn’t feel like I deserved to be there and I still don’t. After my race, I went down to the finish line to watch the last racers come in and it was an amazing feeling. That’s when I knew, Kona was something I want to come back to one day and finish.
ST: You have been racing triathlons and representing Challenged Athletes Foundation for quite some time now. Is the CAF your other family?
Rudy: To my CAF is family, but also a way of life. When I first went to the CAF race, the San Diego Triathlon Challenge, in San Diego, I was one of the only challenged kid there. Now there are 30+ kids who have some kind of challenge. With CAF’s help, we are helping kids like me do to accomplish their dreams. I don’t like to use the word disabled or handicapped. I believe the real disability is having a negative attitude. Having no legs is only a challenge.
ST: What do you think when you see young guys like Cody McCasland coming through and following your path?
Rudy: When I see kids like Cody, it’s an awesome feeling because I know we are changing people’s perceptions. When I was born, the doctors told my parents I would never walk. Now, with the help of CAF and all of our supporters, people like me and Sarah Reinertsen are able to get our message out to the world. I still thing there is a ton of work to do. We are just getting started.
ST: How often do you give motivational speeches and or work with them in other functions?
Rudy: I do a speaking gig about once a month. I love talking to the kids because it’s easiest to change someone’s perspective when they are young. I really get a kick out of passing my legs around and showing them there are no limits to what you can do. Never let someone tell you that you cannot do something.
ST: Who are some of your sponsors?
Rudy: I have 3 big supporters who have been by my side since I was 8. CAF, Powerbar and Ossur. Without them, I would not be able to do the things I have done. A big thank you to them! There is also a long, long list of awesome people who have helped me be who I am now. A big thank you to all of you as well. You know who you are!
ST: Which foods do you like and dislike?
Rudy: I love hot cheetos and pizza. I can live off those for the rest of my life.
ST: What about your taste in music?
Rudy: I’m a HipHop Head. Lil Wayne, Kid Cudi, Eminem, Immortal Technique, Jedi Mind Tricks, Kanye West.. I also like some good rock.. Mars Volta, Muse type stuff..
ST: What was the last book you read?
Rudy: Cat in the hat… JK
ST: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Rudy: Gonna let God decide that and I’m gonna enjoy every moment of it.
ST: Is there anything else we should know about you?
Rudy: A big thank to all my fans.. I love your support.. thank you thank you thank you!!!!!!!