WILDWOOD CREST – The Borough of Wildwood Crest did not even have an election this year, but Mayor Don Cabrera is still running.
Cabrera took a break from his elected duties to compete in a full Ironman competition in Panama City, Florida, Nov. 5. Cabrera, 57, will compete in his third full-distance triathlon, which includes a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride, followed by a 26.2-mile run. Cabrera talked about the background and plans for this event during an interview at borough hall, Oct. 25.
Cabrera headed down to Panama City on Nov. 1, hauling his own bike and other people’s bikes. He literally said he didn’t want to race down to Florida in order to compete in the race.
Cabrera did not start by competing in Ironman competitions. He grew up in Red Lion, Pennsylvania, and started running cross country in high school to get ready for wrestling season.
“It was just to keep my weight down and get my cardio up,” he said.
But as soon as he started college, he felt like he was gaining weight, and then he got married in 1996 and moved down the shore, started a family, and one day looked in the mirror and said to himself, “Jeez!” thinking he was not where he wanted to be in terms of fitness.
“So, I decided to get back into the running, then took a couple of years off and then in 2014 they were doing Escape the Cape that started with jumping off the back of the ferry.”
The Escape the Cape included a half-mile swim, followed by a 22-mile bike, and then a five-mile run.
“It was in its second year, and I said, ‘Wow,’ and playing on my crazier side, I thought, ‘I want to do that race’,” he said.
Cabrera knew he could swim and run, and figured, “How hard could it be to bike?” He started training for the race and finished it.
“I was happy with that and then, once I did that, I just got the fever to start doing triathlons,” he said.
Cabrera has finished three triathlons. He said there is what is called a Sprint Triathlon, which is a shorter distance, as opposed to the Olympic distance triathlon, which is the same as you see in the Olympics. A half Ironman distance is also called a ‘70.3’ because it is equal to 70.3 miles in total. The full Ironman distance is 140.6 miles of racing.
Asked about his preferred event in the triathlon, Cabrera said, “It’s funny. My favorite event is swimming, although that’s my slowest. My fastest event is the run, and that’s generally the hardest because you’re running after a long bike ride.”
He said if you are training on a bicycle, it is best to do even a short run afterward.
Cabrera said as a cyclist he believes he is middle-of-the-road in the event – not too fast, nor too slow. He said it is a difficult transition from biking to running because it’s a different set of muscles being used. Still, he considers running his break-away event.
He is generally running when he isn’t training for a triathlon. Cabrera said he tends to run with groups, such as South Jersey Runners, saying it’s always better to train with a group. He said it’s better to be around like-minded people with similar interests whether it’s running, biking or swimming.
“It’s just for safety purposes, and for camaraderie and discussion and talking and, you know, just that sense of brotherhood or sisterhood of being together. It’s just better with a group,” he said.
Cabrera said that for him, even racing is more of a social activity and he looks forward to that more than trying to get to the winners’ podium.
Cabrera said people have to learn what kind of fuel their body needs for multiple-event racing. He said that leading up to an Ironman he would start eating more carbs during the week, but the night before he eats protein.
“I want to feel full so I’m not always craving food, so the night before I’m looking for a piece of meat. I like a nice piece of steak lying in my stomach and not be craving food the whole time I’m out there,” he said.
Along with that, triathletes have to consider eating and hydrating during the race, saying that is one of the toughest things to master.
Cabrera was accompanied to the Ironman in Panama City by the rest of his 13-member group, Team Cowbell.
“It’s all about our local tribe,” he said.
Cabrera said there are a number of clubs and athletes in Cape May County and a lot of runners and triathletes who come down during the summer.
Cabrera had a successful race by almost any metric Nov. 5. He finished the entire race in 13 hours and 24 minutes and took 44th place out of 125 racers in his age and gender category.
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