If Maria could only see him now.
In 1997, while living in New Jersey, Hector Torres taught Maria how to dance and the two eventually won a competition at a local nightclub. The two got along great and Torres wanted to take their friendship to the next level. Maria hesitated and ultimately just told Torres that he's not her type.
'Hector, you're fat,' Maria said.
Torres shortly thereafter moved to Florida, dejected yet motivated—by Maria. He promptly started working out and eating properly.
Well, on May 19, Torres was in Spain for the 16th annual Ironman Lanzarote—and, yes, Torres was competing.
The fat kid is now the ultimate Latino hottie—a muscle-bound 29-year-old with a caring, confident, energetic, outgoing personality. Watch him take his shirt off for a photo-shoot and watch the heads turn.
And, yes, Torres is gay.
'Since I was a kid, I've always [ seen ] the Ironman race and just thought, 'Wow,' as they sometimes literally crawl to the finish line,' said Torres, who lives in Orlando, Fla. 'Being an Ironman is a lifetime achievement.'
And the Ironman in Spain is the hardest of all Ironman courses in the world, with wind and multiple steep hills among the factors to deal with.
Then there's the course itself: a 2.4-mile swim, a 111-mile bicycle ride and a 26.2-mile run.
Torres' pre-race goal was to complete it in 13 hours. ( He finished in 15 hours, 20 minutes and 59 seconds—and got to hear the phrase said to all finishers: 'You are an Ironman.' )
The triathlon last summer at the Gay Games in Chicago consisted of a half-mile swim, 25-mile ride and near-6-mile race. The average competitor finished in about two hours, 30 minutes.
'It's crazy,' Torres said, laughing.
Torres competed in his first triathlon in 2004—and he didn't even finish due to problems in the water.
'I never really envisioned being where I'm at today,' he said. 'I wanted to do an Ironman that was far away and one that was not common. I'm doing it for bragging rights—to myself.'
Torres, in the 25-to-29 year-old age-group in Spain, had about 50 age-group challengers. The event featured 1,200 overall competitors—and maybe 2 percent were gay, Torres speculated.
Torres now weighs a ripped 190 pounds—quite a drop from his 263-pound, 43-inch-waist body of the Maria era. He's now, though, in the Don Era.
Don, you see, is Torres' 45-year-old boyfriend. 'And he is not my sugar daddy,' Torres said, laughing. Don works for software company Oracle, and also has one triathlon under his belt. ( Don declined to give his last name. )
'Of all my past relationships, this is my longest [ over 19 months ] and I'm the happiest,' Torres said. The two dated for a year before moving in together. 'He's very patient and supportive. He gives me balance.'
Torres worked for an Orlando radio station for six years before leaving last September to focus on his work in the fitness industry. He will graduate from the University of Central Florida in December and eventually wants to go to law school.
He is the group exercise director for Metro Muscle in downtown Orlando and is also a personal trainer.
Last July, after returning from the Gay Games, he founded the first gay-friendly triathlon club in central Florida. The group started with 50—and 30 are still active. Members range from 19 to 59, and maybe 3 percent are gay, Torres said.
The group has expanded to 135, with novice, intermediate and advanced competitors—and Torres targets workouts for each group.
Torres also has 19 regular clients who he trains three times per week.
Torres finished seventh last summer at the Gay Games among the 30 age-group competitors he faced, and left with a lifetime of memories. 'It was a lot of fun, a wonderful time and I got to meet so many great people,' Torres said.
And as for Maria—where is she? The two have not spoken in years, but Torres has never forgotten her words.