In February 2007 I had heard of triathlons, but knew nothing about them and had no desire to complete one. I had just purchased this home workout program called P90X (you may have seen it on T.V.). Well, the program is 90 days long and I completed it. It is designed to shred body fat. I was 5’7” and 180 lbs. I was strong and had always lifted weights, benching over 320 lbs. I was not even fat, but not ripped. So I did this P90X thing and lost 30 lbs. I got ripped, discovered abs, and lost four inches of my waist. So at 5’7” and 150 lbs, I was not the stocky strong guy I used to be. I just looked fit and short.
One day at the gym a guy said, "Hey, you should do a duathlon." He explained it to me and I looked into it. Then I looked at triathlons. Run, bike, run really did not strike me. Swimming did, however. Why swimming? Because I knew it would be a challenge. So I decided to do the Topeka Tinman Sprint Course. I live in Topeka, KS, so no travel would be required, and I live a mile from the lake where it’s held. The sprint was 300 meter swim, 11 mile bike, and 5K run. I got a membership to our YMCA to swim. I got to the pool, put on my cool new goggles, jumped in, and started to swim. I thought it would be easy, since these old farts to my right and left were doing it, and my parents taught me how to swim. You just float on your stomach, kick your legs, turn your arms round and round, and breathe off your side once you run out of air. Well, after about two trips to the pool and doing only 50 meters before being out of breath, I hired a coach. Three training sessions for $150.
My coach got me on a program which I started on my 32nd birthday. I met my coach for the first time and he showed me a few things and put me on a sprint program, swimming three times a week. My coach also told me to get the Total Immersion DVD. I got the DVD, made drill cards, and practiced every day. A couple of weeks later, I was able to knock out about 200 meters without stopping. I thought I was doing great. I had two more weeks before my first sprint. How was I going to get up to 300 meters in open water in front of a crowd? I watched the DVD over and over, and a week before my first sprint, I got 600 meters done with my heart pounding out of my chest! I continued to bike and run. It was hard getting my training time in. I'm a single father and a police officer working nights, and have full custody of my two daughters, Jaide (8), and Hannah (5). So I keep a very busy schedule. I trained that month and followed my coach’s program. I put in about six hours a week. The night before the triathlon, my parents, daughters, and I went to the lake to see the course and the whole set up. I was shocked: roads blocked off, buoys everywhere in the water, big blow up things that say "finish," "swim start," and "bike out." “Wow,” I thought, “This is cool. It’s like a big deal.” I looked out at the 300 meter swim course. 150 meters in and out. “Man, that looks far,” I thought. We all went home. I went to bed early to get up at 5:00 a.m. I knew I needed a good night’s sleep. As I was in bed, my kids and mother were making "Go Daddy, Good Job on your First Triathlon" signs to have at the finish line. I slept great that night. It was the best 30 minutes of sleep and seven hours of tossing and turning you could ask for. Morning came and I got up…well, get out of bed anyway. I ate a ton and headed off with my transition pack filled with your standard first timer gear: black tri-shorts, crappy running shoes, a black mountain bike helmet, and my best friend for photos. I told my kids and parents goodbye and to come about fifteen minutes before the start, parking shouldn't be problem. Well, we got to the lake and I got on my cell phone to call my parents. "Dad, there are a ton of people here, and you may have to walk about a half mile after you park, sorry!" I WAS SHOCKED. Tons of athletes, from veterans to newbies just as scared as me. Ironman finisher T-shirts being displayed, Tinman Triathlon T-shirts being worn right out of the goodie bag. I told myself, “I am not wearing my T-shirt until I earn it!”
Another pleasing surprise were triathlete women in Spandex— A TON OF HOTTIES. I think my friend took a whole role of film of the gorgeous body marking lady. Then I waited. I thought, “Do I do a warm up swim or not? No, that will wear me out. Just stand around and be nervous.” My family arrived, mad from their hike. I set up my transition, pinning my race number on my tri-tank on all four corners. Just to let you know, when you put a tank on and stretch it over you, your race number tears right off through the clothes pins (so I've heard). Then it was go time. The long course athletes were coming out of the water and the sprint starts was counting down. I was in the first heat, towards the back, on the far left side. The horn blew and I started. Swim, swim, swim! I wasn’t looking, and started veering off to the left, going off course. After about 30 meters, I looked up. “OH @#!$.” I breast stroked to get back on course, and then went back to freestyle. “Okay,” I thought, “I am faster then this guy in front of me who keeps kicking me in the face.” But I didn’t dare pass him and wear myself out. 100 meters into it, I started to think I couldn’t do it. “Calm down, calm down,” I thought. The 150 meter buoy was just ahead, I slowed down to breast stroke around the buoy and start to the transition area. I was getting sick of the slow guy in front of me! I came out middle of the pack (MOP).
I ran to my bike, and damn, there was a lot of sand on my feet to wipe off. I got my shirt on, and off popped my race number. What’s a race belt? I pinned it back on, and off I went. The bike went okay. “Hey,” I thought, “I will try this GU stuff…Yummy,” as I gagged coming to the end of the bike. “Water please, this GU is a little different.” Back at the transition area, I threw on my Nikes from JCPenny's (i.e., crap). What is pronation? What is a stability shoe? At the time, I had never heard of these terms. So off I went, thinking, ”Just a 5K and I am a triathlete.” I was doing well on the run. I was passing others who were saying, "Good job, 587" (that was my race number). People were cheering me on. These were the nicest people I have ever been around!
I got to the halfway point, turned around after getting water, and turned it on. I picked up the pace and finished 68th out of 298 on the run, 112th overall. Near the finish, I saw my parents cheering, and daughters holding up their signs. I DID IT! Then I drank the super concentrated sports drink. "It helps you recover," a man said, as he saw my face as I was drinking it. He introduced himself and asked me how it went. I told him it was the greatest thing, and everybody was so nice. He responded, "Welcome to the family." We chatted, walked to the finish, and watched everyone else come across. I cheered for others and soaked it all in. I grabbed my gear and walked to my SUV. I told my family, “This is the best day ever.” I went home, showered, put on my TOPEKA TINMAN t-shirt, and we all hit a Chinese buffet. Okay, then I got tired. “Take me home, it’s nap time.” That was June 16th, 2007.Since then, I live on BT and Youtube, checking out the triathlon home videos and Ironman videos. They are great motivators. I completed my first Oly a month later, July 22nd. It was a little different going from a sprint, with a short swim, to a Oly, but I loved it even more. At my Oly I had more friends that I met on BT's Forum, and recognized faces from the Topeka Tinman. I got a race belt to speed up my transition, and went to a running store and purchased good pair of Mizuno running shoes. I live at the local bike shop and dream of the tri-bikes on display.
I am doing two more Olys this summer. In May of 2008 I am going for a half Iron distance. I am using the 16 week swim focused training program I found here. I am able to freestyle 3000 meters without stopping. I just need to get better on the bike. If anybody would like to donate a Trek E7 or just $2000, that would be great (kidding). I guess I could make a sign that says "Will work for bike and wetsuit." I live for this sport now. Many friends and co-workers tell me that it’s cool when I tell them my triathlon memories. Some respond, "I would like to do one of those, but don't have the desire." I respond, "All it takes is desire." I am learning every day better ways to train, rest, and eat. Good luck to all and thanks for reading my boring story.