Ever have one of those days where you are in need of some serious motivation? Work is driving you nuts. The kids are fussy. Working out at the gym is the LAST thing you want to do. Or maybe you think you would like to take part in a race but not until you reach your goal weight. "I'll do it after I lose 30 lbs". My friend Ricky provided me with some serious motivation this week after publishing his triathlon story on his blog. Not only did he take part and finish a triathlon, he did so at 250 lbs. I was so proud of Ricky when I read his story that I immediately e-mailed him to ask if I could share his blog post on my site. Ricky kindly agreed. Ricky is proof that when you put forth your heart and mind to a specific goal and do the hard work you WILL get results. I'm so proud of you Ricky!
I've been debating about writing this story because I've never been big on self promotion but I think after a few months, I do have the right to be proud of this accomplishment.
So here's the story. My father has been one of the organizers for a small sprint triathlon held in late May. He had suggested I try competing in it a few times but I never really felt the desire to do so. I was not exactly triathlete material. I was am overweight, couldn't run any distance, and didn't know how to distance swim. Over the winter while talking with Rory (a riding buddy), we decided to give it a shot. Neither one of us were runners, and neither one of us had any clue how to swim distance. At this point, the only part of it that I had any confidence in was the bike ride. I may not have been the fastest bike out there, but I knew finishing a 20k bike ride was not going to be an issue for me. The swim and the run however had me quite worried.
Over the last 2 years, in the winter to try and keep some fitness when the snow kept me off my bike, I had been doing some light running. Unfortunately I had never worked my way up to the 5k required for the tri. My outlook for swimming was even worse. I have never done lane swimming in my entire life. I knew how to swim, or rather not drown, but actually making any kind of time or distance was a foreign concept to me.
So over the winter I start working on my running, doing 2-3 runs per week, staring with a mix of run and walk, gradually increasing the running until I was doing very little walking. Unfortunately as May approached, I was still only able to do around 4k at a time, but figured I could grind out the last 1k if it came down to it.
At the same time I started hitting the pool. My wife is a swimmer so she came along to show me how to do it. My first lap I realized I might be in trouble. I didn't know how to breath properly, kick properly, or even stroke properly. But after a few trips to the pool I was able to start doing some distance comfortably. Before I knew it I was able to do the required 750m in under the required 30 minutes. Not by much, but under the limit. I was feeling pretty good about the swim portion, confident about the bike, and only mildly nervous about the run.
Continued from Part 1
Fast forward to race day. The day dawned with drizzle and a single digit temperature. Not the nicest way to start a race, at least the swim was going to be indoors in a heated pool. By the time I get to the site, I'm feeling butterflies like I haven't felt in years. Not since I used to do some X-Country Mountain bike racing had I felt like this. I was by this point very worried, but it was too late for second though now.
The race was setup with a number of heats because the pool only had capacity for 5 at a time. To keep the finishes relatively close, the slower swimmers such as myself and Rory were placed in the first heat. As they count down to the start my nerves really start to get to me. I'm vibrating in the water, I think I might puke, "please please please let me get through this swim in good shape".
We're off, I'm off on my first lap. Feeling strong, but pushing much too hard too soon. Pure adrenalin is charging through my veins. 3 laps later I'm gasping for air, my strokes are all out of rhythm, my technique is out the window and I'm worried. "Just keep going.... don't stop, you can do this. It's just like training, CALM DOWN!" I take an extra breath at the end of the pool while turning, then settle down into a proper pace and get my stroke bake in order. I've long since lost track of how many laps I need to do, so I keep plodding along, they will let me know when I'm done. I sneak a glance at the clock, "25 minutes in??? I better be done soon." I start to worry that I won't make the 30 minute cut off time. Then the most welcome site of the morning, a flutter board in the water at the end wall... My signal that I've made it through the swim.
Jump out of the pool, grab a towel and start to dry off as best I can while running out side to the transition zone where my bike is waiting for me. Step out the door... "GASP, it's freezing out here!" I get into my socks, bike shoes, jersey, jacket, helmet, and glasses. Stick an energy gel and a banana into my pocket and head out. "God it's cold...." Out on the bike course I settle into a good comfortable pace. I'm getting passed by several others on much faster bikes as I begin to regret using my mountain bike with off road tires for this, instead of borrowing my fathers road bike. Rory rides by with road tires on his mountain bike...He's always been a stronger rider than me anyway. "Oh well, I'm just here to finish, not win" I have to keep reminding myself. If nothing else, my Mountain bike is comfortable with it's dual suspension, and familiar to me. The ride is uneventful, but with a head wind on the outbound leg, it's a bit of a tough ride, but nothing I can't handle. I use the "easier" time to get some nutrition, and hydration for the run ahead of me.
I arrive back at the transition zone to change to the run. Park the bike, pop the bike shoes off, and slip on the runners. Take one last gulp of Gatorade and head off! "Gahhh! I can't feel my feet!" The combination of being wet from the pool and the tight bike shoes have completely numbed me from the waist down. I hear my feet smacking the ground instead of taping it, I can't control them properly. This style of running is starting to hurt my calf's, and I'm not even 1k into this thing! I mentally put my head down, and just concentrate on my stride, as the feeling gradually returns to my feet. As I approach the turnaround point on the run course, I see Rory heading back towards me at the same time as my father (who started in a much later heat) catches up to me. We all exchange encouragements and then I'm all alone with my doubts again. "This is too hard, I'm not even half way there and I'm dead. How am I supposed to do another 3k of this???" I hit the turnaround, the wind is now at my back, the road is down hill, and I start feeling strong. "I can do this! I am invincible! Bring it on!" The music from Rocky starts playing in the back of my mind.... Yes I know it's cheesy, but when you need encouragement, you'll take what you can get. The next 2k pass in a blur, and I find myself on the final stretch back to the finish line. The line is in sight! I give it one last push and "sprint" across the line.
In the end, I made it out of the water before Rory, but he beat me badly in Bike and Run portions,
I finished dead last by about 10 seconds, I completed each of the 3 legs without taking a break, or even walking on the run portion, which in any case the my only real goal that I had set for myself.
Will I keep up the triathlons and work towards the big ones like my father and sister? Probably not. Will I do another sprint tri? Definitely!