I slowly approached the finish area of the Lewisburg, PA Sprint Triathlon. As I prepared to turn left at the approaching road and finish the last 100 yards in the direction of the large, red inflated finish tube, a volunteer stepped forward to tell me to continue straight ahead to the next street before turning left. "Oh man, come on." I thought out loud and I shuffled past her thanking her as I moved. Another 100 yards to the turn, but I wasn't sure because I was sweating profusely and it was burning my eyes and dripping off the brim of my hat.. And then around the block to the finish line. I really wasn't running at this point but I was shuffling one foot in front of the other. The sun was now out and beating down on the brow of my Ironman Miami 70.3 hat I scored about five years ago as a volunteer for that event. The weather at the finish line was in direct contrast to the cool, misty rain, that started things off in the pool almost two hours ago. How I got myself into this last quarter mile shuffle is an interesting odyssey of athleticism, career-building and kids. I first heard about the Ironman Triathlon in 1980 as a student at the University of West Florida when a friend of mine on the cross country team told me a tale of fitness in Hawaii. He called it the Ironman Triathlon and he had fantasies of hitting it big and scoring his wealth winning this strange event I'd never heard of. The next week he quit school to train for IM Hawaii and since it was pre-social media, I never heard from him again. I moved on with my life, stumbled into a career that moved me all over the country, and I kept running as a hobby. I was a middle of the pack 5k and 10k'er and I did it for fitness more than anything. Then I crossed paths with Ironman Lake Placid a few years back during my quest to be an Adirondack 46'er, and the scope of the event caught my attention, not to mention the incredible fitness of the athletes. Now that is something I wish I could finish. The next year our local pool sponsored a fundraiser by creating a Sprint Triathlon. I was all in but I registered my son and me as a team of two. There was no way I could finish 300 yards in the pool, 15 miles on a bike, and a 5K by myself. At 230 pounds I would die. Life had crept up on me and I lost my fitness to steaks and baked potatoes and too many nights in hotels traveling for business. So I threw my 15 year old in the mix, a driven, high level D1 athlete in the making at age 15. He was my secret weapon but I started swimming laps at the local Y and started riding my old $100 mountain bike to hedge my bets. I was adequate and he was awesome as we placed in the team division. The next year he had three teammates from his nationally ranked wrestling team training at our house for the same week so we didn't even ask them; we paid their entry fees and they competed wearing their high school singlets. I was part of a team and when it was all done life got in the way again. Finally I was rounding the last bend in Lewisburg and mercifully they had placed the finish line at the bottom of 125 yard down hill. There were several young kids screaming encouragement so I started to sprint the last 100 yards and I crossed the finish line of my first ever Sprint Triathlon that I completed solo. They placed a medal around my neck but there was no time clock so I had no idea of my time. In my mind I had hoped to complete it in under 2 hours flat but my reasonable calculations based on my short three weeks of training time gave me a realistic finish time of about 2 hours and 12 minutes. Sporting some new flashy bling around my neck, I headed for the awards ceremony that was about to begin in ten minutes. When you register the morning of the event you are last in the pool and when you crash on the run you are one of the last to cross the finish line. I knew there were at least a dozen behind me, but I had won this race in my head.when I crossed the line. Truth be told I won this race three weeks ago while volunteering at IM Lake Placid. That is the day that I decided I was going to get back in the pool, get back on the bike, and up my road mileage. That day I decided to do something about the 245 pounds that was squeezing my body to death as a 58 year old male barely reaching 6 feet in height. I waited patiently poolside on this wet August morning. Swimmers entered the pool at 20 second intervals and swam a 300 yard serpentine course. Those in my area of the line registered late or the morning of the race. There were two people behind me. I finally crawled into the pool and took off telling myself to go easy and pace myself. Three weeks is not a lot of training time for an old, fat guy. I was horrible in the pool. I did pass one swimmer, a nice man who I talked to waiting in the line but he only had one arm so that made the pool tougher for him. I finally caught one more swimmer in lap 11, but I was embarrassed with my 9 minute time. Of course 90 seconds of that time was me finding my running shoes and shirt and getting across the time chip mat, but I was not happy. That would be the last time I saw a time clock for the rest of the day and I was happy about that as I left my Timex IM watch at home. I was intentional about that. I did not want to stress against the clock. I wanted to finish. Period. I hit the bike transition and although I thought I had prepared things nicely, I felt like I was taking way too long. I would find out later it was almost four minutes. Ouch. Off I went on my rented road bike that I scored from the race sponsor. It was like flying a jet airplane compared to my tank of a mountain bike. We rode around a couple neighborhoods with sharp 90 degree turns and I was feeling great. We hit the open road out in the country with very few cars and I started to push my bike hard. Well, for me it was pushing hard. And suddenly, and very unexpectedly, I was passing people on the bike. Without thinking about it, I was catching riders on the flat and blowing past them on the hills. One-third into the bike I had passed a half dozen or more riders. I kept pushing and just when I thought I was good at this, the nice man with one arm went flying past me. I spoke words of encouragement to him and decided I would try and hang close to him since he was a hammer on the bike. The two of us passed each other a number of times before he got tired of dueling an old, fat man, and the next time I saw him was at the medal ceremony. But, I had found a rhythm. Catch people on the flat and blow past them on the hills and I did it about twenty times. So I would look ahead and pick out riders and go. Little did I know that I couldn't catch the final guy because I was flying into the bike/run transition area. I felt great physically coming off the bike. I racked the bike, took one swallow from my bottle, and took off for the road. This was going to be a quick transition and it turns out it was less than 90 seconds, and it was extended because one of the guys I met at 6:00 am was packing his bike to make the two hour drive to his home. He was finished and I wished him well. So "took off" is a relative term. I'm sure people that saw me didn't think I was "taking off" but I was on the run course holding a small bottle of Gatorade, nonetheless. My legs felt like tree limbs growing in mud. And there would be mud on this course, but at the worst possible time for me the sun poked through the low cloud cover and I swear all of it's Vitamin D was beaming at my forehead. I was lumbering along and then the first lesson of the bike smacked me in the stomach. Don't drink too much Gatorade because you will pay for it on the run. I thought that sipping 15 ounces of drink on the bike would fuel my run. As I hit mile one on the run course I literally (I hate when people use that word) heard and felt the liquid sloshing in my stomach. In addition to being stuck in the mud with tree trunk legs, I was getting sea sick from the sloshing. Amazing as it is to think about, I did pass a few folks on the run or at least I slogged past them. At the water stop I walked and tried to trade my Gatorade bottle for some water. I did get water but they did not want my bottle filled with orange liquid. We ran around a pond in the grass. By the time I got there it was real mud so now my feet and socks were soaked but the view of the pond was nice. As I hit mile two and headed for the finish line at a turtles pace, several women that I blew past on the bike, returned the favor on the run course. I encouraged them all and cursed myself for allowing my frame to hit 245 pounds. But on that day three weeks ago I crossed the finish line all by myself. No team to help me cheat. Not even a family member to encourage me since they were on vacation or training for the 2020 Olympics. I headed over to the awards area and we waited for another dozen finishers to cross. I was a sweaty mess, but at that moment in my mind I could slay Goliath. So I did the next best thing. I called the 15 year old boy who is now a 20 year old man. He runs Pikes Peak for fun as he trains for the Olympics in his sport. At that moment I thought only he could understand. And he did and he congratulated me on my meager achievement knowing what it took for his fat old man to toe the line that morning. My young athlete wanted to know my time as every high level athlete needs a measuring stick. There was no clock at the finish but in my mind I had won. I crossed the finish line and was the proud owner of a medal attesting to that fact. Later that night in an empty house, I logged on to find my time on the website. I pumped a fist in the air and yelled out loud scaring the dog awake from his slumber. The time next to my name was 1:59:36, breaking my 2 hour pipe dream goal. I puffed my chest out the rest of the night and even the dog was happy for me. Fast forward three weeks from race day and I'm more motivated than ever. I have not stepped on a scale but one is not necessary. My pants don't fit any more. Not even close. I'm swimming more, finishing 30+ mile bike rides on the mountain bike in 5 minute miles, and logging many more miles on the road at a faster pace. I'm tuned into training. In fact, if I don't train in two of the three disciplines every day I feel lazy. Finishing my first Triathlon has been life changing for me. There is no doubt it has extended my life and now I have my sights set on a couple of 70.3's. Yes, I dream about the IM but even if I fall short of that dream, my first Tri has changed my life for the better.
Living in Happy Valley and working all over the Southeast makes for an interesting life. Love the mountains and the beach all at the same time.
Goals - finish a marathon and 70.3 and join the Adirondack 46er club before I can't do it.