Better Late Than Never

author : Ontherun
comments : 0

"Finding triathlon has probably saved my life." A late bloomer shares some of his journeys on becoming a 4rth year triathlete.

I have just completed my third full year of triathlon training and racing. It has been a lot of fun. I am now 36 years old and having the time of my life. I am married with two wonderful kids, ages four and seven. I also have a lovely wife, who is my hero. She has lost 50 pounds in the last year using Weight Watchers, and is the rock in my life. She has enabled me to go out and train and race. For this I am very grateful. I am in the best shape of my life, even though I would love to drop under 200 pounds for the first time since high school.

Finding triathlon has probably saved my life. Until I started this new lifestyle, I put on at least five pounds a year and was very unfit physically. My poor physical health started when I was a kid. I was always the overweight, slow kid who was last picked (if picked at all) to play pickup games at school and around the neighborhood. All of my peers chased their older siblings to hockey practice, ball games, etc. As the oldest child, I was always being asked to include my little sister, two years younger than I.

Somehow as a kid I did manage to get a few trophies from sports. One season in baseball, I was lucky enough to be on a team that went to the World Series in our town’s league. We basically rode the tails of one kid with a great arm, who should have been playing on a team one level up that season. It was still fun, but I really had no contribution to our teams success other than just showing up.

My next trophy also came in baseball on the same team. I did not know it at the time, but the coach I had for the past four seasons had only four players on his team who had been with him all four years of his coaching. He decided, since he was going to stop coaching for a few years, that it would be fun to send the four of us to the All-Star game. The other three could be argued as good choices. The rest of the team said it was because my father was an assistant coach. I agreed with them. The only thing that I contributed to in the game was a big scare. I could not get out of the way of a high inside fastball and got knocked out by the pitch for about ten seconds. The concussion went away, but I was still not an athlete.

As the years went by I tried other sports. Pop Warner football—I carried the gear bag well when I was not getting thrown around the field by the stronger players. Soccer—I played the role of cone well as others went by in both directions. In high school, my mother prodded me to go out for sports. I tried wrestling, which I thought was finally a sport where my size might help. Not so. I was in the 187 weight class as a freshman and the team had 10 other wrestlers—all seniors—in that weight class. I had one match in my short season before I quit due to breaking a finger at home (what a good/lame excuse for bowing out of a sport that I was not good at). In my one match, I can say I did my best, but I was beat in the third round by the other school’s “Least Likely to Ever Win a Match” wrestler.

Next I went out for cross country. What an adventure! Coach would post the workouts and routes. I would get out on course as early as I could so I could be shown the route. By the end of the first corner, the other runners were out of sight. So for most of the season, I just did laps on the track. I never pushed myself in speed or distance during training, only on race day. I was always the last to finish in my races. In one race, I was so far behind that the two teams had finished the scoring of the race, shaken hands, gotten on the bus and started to pull out of the lot before the driver saw me waving at him as I crossed the finish line. My athletic self esteem and pride were at an all time low.

While in high school, I did find a "sport" that would move me forward, but I did not know it yet. My local church was offering summer camps for bike tours. All levels were invited. My first camp was chosen because it did not do too many miles in one day. If I remember, the long days were about 18 miles, but most were closer to ten. The trip took place in Vermont. We went from the Canadian border to Rutland. Here is where I found out how to be a techno geek. My first bike was a Columbia ten-speed. It was not built for the hills of Vermont. On bike inspection at the beginning, I was told to call home for some money. The brakes I had were not strong enough for this ride, and new ones were then put on. I took my bike and rode it for all it was worth. While I was there, I learned about double and triple cranks, 21 speeds (big deal back then as opposed to bikes with 30 now), and other higher-end bikes. Some of the better riders showed me about cadence and clipless pedals (I was riding with birdcages).

This one ride took me to two other church rides. As an adult I was looking to challenge myself again and signed up for the Pan Mass Challenge (PMC). This was a ride from Sturbridge, Massachusetts to Provencetown in two days, 198 miles. I did my homework and learned how to train for distance riding, enjoyed it and then completed three PMC's before I could no longer raise the money for the entry to this fine charity event.

I took several years off from anything more strenuous than bowling and watching football. I got married, had two kids, and put on weight till I got to over 250 pounds. I was looking for the next sport I could do poorly for a year at best. Going to the gym had lasted 6 months on two separate occasions. Scuba was fun, but not what I was looking for. Golf was not for me either. I had seen triathlon on TV (thank you, NBC, for your coverage of Kona), but I could not do an Ironman. Then, over diner one night, my sister-in-law mentioned doing a tri. We chatted and she explained about this site, Beginner Triathlete, and about races like sprints. In an irony of all ironies, she does not remember the conversation and has still never done a triathlon four years later.

Her guidance got me in the right direction, and now I am hooked. I found a sport that I am good at. Not that I am much better than a Back-of-the-Pack racer, but I keep getting better against myself. I enjoy the camaraderie, the competition, and the fitness that comes with it. It took me over 30 years to find what works for me, but that is all that counts—it works for ME!

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date: December 7, 2006

Ontherun

Father of two, devoted husband, Clydesdale, hope to become just an age grouper someday. Competing in the 40-44 bracket this year. Have done a 1/2 Ironman tri, a marathon and a bunch of sprint and oly distance races. Member of BT since 12-1-03

avatarOntherun

Father of two, devoted husband, Clydesdale, hope to become just an age grouper someday. Competing in the 40-44 bracket this year. Have done a 1/2 Ironman tri, a marathon and a bunch of sprint and oly distance races. Member of BT since 12-1-03

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