An Ironman's Story of Iron Will

author : areyoux8
comments : 14

This is the story of a beginner triathlete's life altering conquest of his first Ironman.

Triathlon: an athletic competition in which the contestants compete in three different events and the events are usually swimming, cycling, and running.

Hi, my name is Jimmy, I’m 31 and today I’m an Ironman.   In 2006, I had been through some major life changes, severe personal stress and had a horrible outlook on my self esteem.  I needed a constructive way to channel my life into positive activities to better my physical and mental health.  In my early 20’s I was in and out of workouts without any consistency and my life was engulfed with drinking and partying.  At the age of 27, I reached a point at which I was incredibly overweight and out of shape.  I couldn’t escape the truth; I was so unhappy with my current lifestyle and embarrassed of how I looked. I knew that I needed to make a change. 

In 2008, my life was provided with an opportunity to make that change and I decided to make a fearless effort to get my life together.  While I was soul searching in late 2007, two cousins of mine had challenged me into getting back in shape and to register for a triathlon that they had completed the past summer. In the winter of 2008 I signed up for the Lake Geneva Triathlon 2008, a decision that would forever change my life.
Today, my life is much more satisfying as a result of a change in my eating, drinking and lifestyle decisions. The road here did not come easy. In college I was a mess. I earned the nickname “The Hurricane” as a result of the person I became when I was drinking and partying. I would start and not stop until my money ran out or my body would shut down. My priorities were to try to fit in, to make myself feel accepted, but I was alone with my horrible habits. I was scared of life and the future after college.

After graduating college I was still an out of control drinker, smoker, and drug abuser. I was headed down a road where I was going to end up dead or in jail. In late December 2005, I faced one of the worst imaginable scenarios of my life...I was arrested for another DUI. I didn’t remember a thing. I woke up in a jail realizing that I had messed up again, and knew at that moment that I had a serious drinking problem. That next day I told my father (who was dying of cancer) what I had done, he was so upset and ashamed of my actions that he said the one thing that has forever changed my life. He told me “Son, I am so sorry. I failed in raising you.”  Since that moment I knew that I had to make a change not only for myself but also for my family. So I made a promise to give up alcohol and to change my life if my father would promise me that he would not leave this earth with the belief that my mistakes in life were because of his parental guidance.  It was the last promise I had made to my father.

In 2006, I lost my father to lung cancer, then one year later to the day of my father’s death in 2007 I lost my mother to a broken heart. I was lost, scared and my body needed a way to channel my stress. Luckily for me my two cousins had just gotten themselves in shape again. Sean Murray and Bob Harazin had just completed an Olympic Distance Triathlon in Lake Geneva Wisconsin. My older cousin Sean had gotten his life together with marathon training a year earlier. I was intimidated when they told me the distances of each event combined. I thought to myself, 'Could I do that?' I hesitantly said that I would signup. They both began to wager on whether I could finish. Many of my friends said no way I would follow through with it...and that’s when it hit me. Here’s my chance, I knew it then that I was going to sign up and I was going to finish the 1 mile swim, the 25 mile bike and the 6.2 mile run. My only question was how in the world am I going to do this and where do I begin?

Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off your goals” – General William Hasley, Jr.

It was February 2008 and I signed up at a local gym here in the city of Chicago. I was 5’9 and 185 lbs. I believe my bodyfat at the time was close to 30% or maybe more. The pictures were proof enough. I had begun running everyday a little more and more as I gradually built up my endurance and stamina.  I was confused and intimidated of the weight room. I wanted to do more but I was uneducated on what to do and how to do it. So I took the initiative to ask for help and training. That’s when I met Tony Designor.  Tony was a Certified Personal Trainer at the club and an avid running and a two time Ironman.  Tony and I began the first of many steps in order to get me into shape. First Tony and I sat down and we discussed my goals, my expectations, my diet, and most importantly my commitment. I placed my goals and obstacles in front of me and put my fears aside.

I began with attending two spin classes and running three times a week. I was also working with Tony two mornings a week on core strength and circuit training. Step one was getting a strong base for my body.  While I was working with Tony I was also coming into the gym to weightlift with a co-worker to get some extra work in.  As time moved along I became stronger, leaner and more confident.  Before I knew it June had arrived and I set off to complete my first 10k race with my cousin. I finished strong with a time of just under 48 minutes. My confidence was growing. I was seeing my body change and my self esteem improve and most importantly my sobriety was getting easier to manage.  In July I finished a Sprint Triathlon (600 meter swim / 15 mile bike / 5k run) with ease. I was so excited. I was getting in great shape for my Olympic Distance Triathlon in open water and a hilly environment. I was getting in the pool and swimming, on my road bike and running along the lakeshore path on Lakeshore Drive in Chicago. 

Life was getting better and before I had realized it, it was time for my “A” race.  In the nine months leading up to my first Olympic distance triathlon Tony had really helped me get in shape and gave insight on my mental walk through for my race. Now it was time and I had done all the workouts I could do. Now the most important element of the race would be needed...WILLPOWER. The belief in me and the desire to finish what I had started.  The race was a success; I finished my first triathlon in 3hrs 2mins.  I was thrilled. My friends were amazed and I had found a new life passion that would forever change my life.

For that race I was 5’9 170 lbs and I had shaved close to three inches off of my waist.  I was on cloud nine! Finishing the race left me to wonder how fast could I become and how far could I go?  Being that Tony my trainer was an Ironman, I quickly found myself wanting what he had found: the bragging rights, that amazing feeling of accomplishment and the ability to say that I did something great in my life that I could do in memory of my father and mother. The two people who always believed in me and never gave up no matter how many times I screwed up.  So in the month of September 2008 I signed up for the 2009 Ford Ironman Louisville. My cousins Bob and Sean called me an idiot and others called me crazy.

The Ironman Triathlon is one of the world’s most difficult distances. The Ironman Triathlon is a one-day event beginning with a 2.5-mile swim following a 112-mile bike ending with running a 26.2 marathon to the finish line. The Ironman is a monster of an endurance challenge and many people train years for it and never finish but I was ready to take my mind, body and soul to a place I never ever dreamed I could. I began immediately with my workouts and continued to work with Tony. We re-channeled my goals, reformatted my workouts, and made a written and clear promise to follow through with my commitment.  My training was tough, time consuming but most importantly in the end it was a life lesson that I will never forget.  

My training began immediately with single muscle group lifting every day. I changed up my lifts each week. Following each lift or earlier that day I would do at least 45 minutes of high impact cardio work whether it was running, spin classes or getting in the pool. I would rest on Sundays and followed a diet that was satisfying and was providing me with the calories and nutrition needed. In the two months leading up to my 20 week Ironman program I focused on working my core. I began working with a trainer specifically to strengthen my body to be able to handle the punishment of what the Ironman training was going to be. In seven months total of strength training, core work, and cardio I was ready. My 20 week program was consuming to say the least but I did it by pacing each workout one day at a time.  I went through some setbacks with nagging injuries and tightness, but working with a Physical Therapist helped me heal those problems and steady my workload to not incur any further injuries.

Once again, before I knew it, race week had arrived. I was in the best shape of my life and ready to take my mind and body to a place I had never been. Boy was I scared and nervous, but the other athletes I met and worked with over the past year helped me establish the confidence I always wanted. The race was an astonishing experience that taught me so much about myself.  At the end of the race I surprised myself, finishing the Ironman in 13hours 17minutes and I felt great. I experienced no real pain, no injuries, and tons of smiles and tears of joy in between. I had surpassed my trainer Tony's finishing times at both Ironman Wisconsin and Ironman Brazil. The feeling of running through the finish line and seeing the crowds cheering for me was worth all the pain and the loneliness I experienced in my training in the months during my 20 week program.

Finishing the Ford Ironman Louisville in the fall of 2009 gave me the confidence, the body and the achievement that finally made me feel that I had made a true change in my life.  Today I am 5’9 and 160lbs and my body fat is below 10%. I have found a new sense of self and satisfaction in my life as a result of my triathlon training.  Since finishing the Louisville Ironman, I have run in the Chicago Marathon and I have signed up for Ironman Wisconsin for the fall of 2010.  I will continue my Ironman races each year until my body says no more. I can proudly call myself “The Hurricane” because today I have the willpower, mindset and the self esteem to better myself as a result of my triathlon training. I will never give up; I will never give in… 
Ironman has always been about finishing what you have started. About being able to do what you have set out to do. Maybe not as fast as the person in front of you but certainly faster than the person that never started”  - John Collins,  Founder of The Ironman Triathlon.

The following information were things I did and used in order to become the Ironman today.  First, I contacted my doctor to make sure that triathlons were safe for me to do. Then I contacted a certified trainer, finally I worked with a nutritionist to find out how to design a safe and satisfying diet.  Finally, I made a sincere commitment to myself to stay focused and finish the goal that I had started and set out to finish.


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date: January 6, 2010