When Rosendo Castillo of Port Washington was asked in December 2012 to do an Ironman event with his cousin in Mexico, he hesitated.
“I told him, ‘I did a marathon in Bangkok and that was brutal. Doing a bike ride and a swim, I think that would be pushing it for me, but if you want to do it, I’ll do it for you,’” Castillo said.
Castillo didn’t know how to swim and didn’t own a bicycle when he agreed to do the grueling event. The men chose the Dec. 1, 2013, Ford Ironman in Cozumel, Mexico, because it gave them the most time to train.
His cousin backed out, but once Castillo made the commitment, he was determined to finish.
Castillo, 33, completed the Cozumel Ironman in 12 hours 42 minutes. He swam 2.4 miles in the ocean in 54 minutes; biked 112 miles in six hours, 24 minutes; and ran the 26.2-mile marathon in five hours, six minutes. That put him 965th out of 2,800 participants and 139th in his age category.
That’s a good finish, but Castillo was disappointed.
After doing well in the swim and bike portions, Castillo said, he felt strong and his goal was to qualify for the 2014 World Ironman Championship in Hawaii.
“Running is my forte, and I thought I could do it (the marathon) in four hours, but I started cramping. I would run for a while, stretch, run some more, stretch. I did that for 26 miles,” Castillo said. “I think because running is my forte, I was able to fight through it. Otherwise, I would have quit.”
As he crossed the finish line, he held aloft an TrY Ozaukee flag signed by the gang from the Feith Family YMCA in Saukville who helped him train.
“I couldn’t have done it without the TrY Club,” Castillo said. “They threw a party for me before I left. I can’t find the words to express what it meant. It would have been a deal breaker without them.”
The Cozumel Ironman fills up fast, so Castillo registered in January 2013, but he didn’t buy airplane tickets or reserve hotel rooms for himself and his family until March, when he felt fairly confident he would compete.
“The more people told me I was crazy, the more excited I got about it,” Castillo said.
But in January, it didn’t look good.
“I went to the swimming pool and I couldn’t do one lap. I was exhausted,” Castillo said. “The lifeguard was laughing. I didn’t know how to breathe and knew I needed help. I saw a notice for a TrY Club meeting for new members.”
At the meeting, he met Danielle Pfeiffer, TrY Club coordinator and swim instructor, who agreed to teach him how to swim competitively.
At 5 a.m. the next morning, Castillo was at the pool at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Port Washington for his first lesson.
“Dani took me under her wing. She and Mike Campbell (TrY Club director) taught me to swim. I started with a pull-boy (floating device) between my legs so I could concentrate on my breathing and strokes,” Castillo said.
Pfeiffer said she was impressed with Castillo’s determination and work ethic.
“We have a lot of people in the club who need help. Not everybody attacks it head-on like he did,” Pfeiffer said. “He was always there, always on time, very coachable, very enthusiastic.
“Rosendo is one of those people you’re lucky to meet. He adds a lot to the club with his spirit.”
Since the Cozumel Ironman would have a deep-water start, Pfeiffer and Campbell taught Castillo how to tread water and conserve energy while waiting for his group to start.
“We talked a lot about being smart, being calm and being confident,” Pfeiffer said.
Castillo, who is director of quality at Allen Edmonds Shoe Corp. in Port Washington, trained every day from 5 to 7 a.m. and another 10 hours on weekends. Even when he traveled for his job, he found ways to train.
The cyclists in the club advised him on competition biking and recommended a bicycle. He rode with the club for triathlon distances, but for long-distance training, he biked multiple laps from Allen Edmonds to the lakefront.
During inclement weather, he put his bike on a stationary trainer at the Y.
To prepare for the Ironman, Castillo did a half marathon in Door County, triathlons in Elkhart Lake, High Cliff State Park, Cedarburg and Port Washington, an Olympic swim in Elkhart Lake and a half Ironman in Door County.
He also did the 75-mile route for the Ride for Arts, leading a team from Allen Edmonds, which was a ride sponsor.
A turning point in his training came during the High Cliff relay triathlon. Castillo was told to choose the event that gave him the most problems, so he picked swimming.
“I panicked. I got hit hard (during the crowded start), and it was cold,” Castillo said. “TrY Club members swam to me and said, ‘We’re not going to leave you.’ When I realized they were with me, I calmed down and was able to finish.”
Castillo also drew inspiration from a video of father-son team Ricky and Dick Hoyt of Massachusetts that he watched before every competition. Ricky, who has cerebral palsy, has been pulled in a float, pushed in a sport wheelchair and peddled on a bicycle by his father Dick in marathons and triathlons since 1977.
In the video, the father said during an event he feels like he is one with his son — that his legs are his son’s legs, not his own. His son said he feels free when they’re swimming, biking or running.
“When I was ready to bail out in the Door County (half Ironman) swim, I see these two athletes pulling a guy just like Ricky, and that inspired me to step it up,” Castillo said.
“You make your mind up to do something, and you can do anything.”
Castillo grew up in Veracruz, Mexico, where his mother and other family members still live. His wife Laura is from Morelia, Mexico, but they met in China. His wife, sons Rosendo Jr., 3, and Edwardo, 18 months, mother, sister and other relatives were at the finish line wearing Team Rosendo T-shirts.
Pfeiffer, Campbell and other TrY Club members followed his progress on the Internet.
Castillo continues to train in hopes of competing in the World Ironman on Oct. 11 in Hawaii. Although he didn’t qualify with his time in Mexico, Castillo entered a lottery for open spots. If he doesn’t get into the world event, he plans to do a half Ironman.
His wife also joined the TrY Club and is training for triathlons.
Image Information: Ironman Rosendo Castillo and his wife Laura with TrY Ozaukee Club director Mike Campbell and coordinator Danielle Pfeiffer, who taught Castillo to swim. Photo by Sam Arendt