My story begins July 4, 2005. I am about to turn 38 years old, I am pushing 320 pounds and I get winded getting out of bed. It occurs to me that something has got to change or I am headed towards heart disease, diabetes, and death. I decide to walk one mile on July 4, 2005 (Independence Day!). By the end of my walk, I am out of breath and my shins are killing me, but I'm not dead yet. I walk the next day, and the next, and the next. By the end of September I'm walking five miles a day six days per week. I have more energy, I have new shoes, but I do not have a goal. Walking is getting boring. What's a fatboy to do? TRIATHLON, that's what! I join the local recreation center—they have a pool (with lifeguards) and stationary bikes. I figure I will need the safety features both of these things provide, considering I am not a strong swimmer and I have not ridden a bicycle since I was twelve. I inform my wife that I will be competing in a triathlon in the spring of '06; she is not convinced. I inform my coworkers; they are not convinced. I inform total strangers; they look at me as if I am out of my mind. Triathlon training starts
I begin to train. First day in the pool I swim 50 meters. I am winded, but proud. I figure I have all winter to train so that I can swim the 750 meters required in the sprint distance. I'll be fine. I inform the lifeguard that I am training for my first triathlon and that I just swam fifty meters for the first time in my life. She informs me that I only swam 25 yards! She is not convinced. She is also questioning my intelligence (as am I). I am not quite as proud, but I do continue to train. Spring arrives. I am down to about 250 pounds. I have new pants. I still do not have a bike. I purchase a pair of triathlon shorts (not pretty). I buy a bike from my wife's cousin. The bike is pink (magenta). I now have skin-tight shorts and a pink bike. My wife is still not convinced I will complete a triathlon, and she is beginning to question my sexual orientation. I am not. The bike is a mountain bike, so I take it to the local bike shop and have it outfitted with a computer and smooth tires. I am ready to ride. Riding a bike into the wind with traffic and real hills is much harder than the stationary bike I have been riding all winter. My butt hurts and my hands go numb, but I continue to train. Getting ready to race
I find a race in my area scheduled for July 9, 2006. I'm nervous just registering for the event; I'm convinced I'll be too nervous to function on race day. As race day approaches, a funny thing happens: Everyone I told about my goal of finishing a triathlon of any distance (and there were many) becomes convinced that I can do it. I am no longer convinced (self doubt), but I am committed and there is no turning back. Race day is here. I am 235 pounds. I am a Clydesdale.
I look around at the other Clydesdales. I'm a little more round than most of these fellows. I talk with an older guy. I can tell he has done this before. He politely points out that I cannot swim with my sandals on (nerves). The siren goes off and I'm in the water. I'm getting kicked, smacked, and otherwise beat on, but I'm also doing some kicking and smacking of my own and I make it to the first buoy. Things start to spread out and I'm able to get into a little bit of a rhythm, and I notice that I'm actually passing a guy in a green cap (from the wave ahead of us). I'm feeling proud. About thirty seconds later I see some white caps swimming past me (from the wave behind)...not feeling so proud, but I am about halfway through the swim. I stagger out of the water in 19:57. The swim was the toughest physical and mental challenge that I have ever faced and it is over. I jog to the bike. I notice there are not many bikes left on the rack, but I grab mine and go. I pass a few people and I get passed by others, but I am euphoric; I will finish. I ride into the transition area and my friends and family are cheering louder than anyone else. I walk my bike to the rack to give my legs a little time to recover, and then it is off to the run. I jog (slowly) about a quarter mile when it hits me. I've come a long way in one year; 85 pounds lost, fitness gained, the pride I could see in the eyes of my three daughters and I start to get choked up, which quickly leads to my not being able to breathe. My children often make fun of me because I cannot watch a movie about someone overcoming long odds without getting a tear in my eye, and here I am starring in the movie that is my life! I realize that I need to get over that pretty quickly because there is the small matter of three miles to run still ahead of me.
I thoroughly enjoy the run. I thank the volunteers passing out water. I stop to chat with them explaining that I simply want to enjoy the moment. I come around the final turn to find my family cheering for me once again. I have my girls join me for the last hundred meters and we all cross the finish line together. It is one of my best days as an adult. This article is titled "What was I thinking?" I think I feel truly alive for the first time in a long time. Total time: 1:51:22. I finished 232 out of 250 and couldn't be any more proud than if I had finished first.