Not Bad for a 34 Year Old CANCER SURVIVOR!!!

author : dleii
comments : 0

At some point I remember thinking about the movie CAPE FEAR. This is what it seemed like when I was around a lot of people. It was just a lot of commotion of waves, arms and feet.

Well my first tri was as uneventful as I would hope for, as far as problems go, however I did have many issues. You see, I have been an endurance guy for four years now. I have run two full marathons (training for my third now) and three half marathons. I love to run, but I needed more. I decided to do a half Ironman...but Team in Training demanded I do a sprint and Olympic first. So here goes my first tri!

The night of the pre-race jitters

First of all, I have only done one race (Mercedes Half Marathon in Birmingham) where I didn’t sleep in my own bed the night before. We checked into our room around 5 pm and to my surprise they had just put in new beds in every room. There were some fluffy mattress's that I was immediately looking forward to. We then went to eat at O’Charley’s. This is when my issues started to mount. If you know me, you will know that this is a HUGE statement. I didn’t say much at dinner. I was starting to feel the jitters. I was not thinking about being able to do the distance just: "Am I going to do everything right? Am I going to have a flat tire? Am I going to get lost on the bike course? Am I going to forget my helmet? Am I going to draft on accident?" etc.


I just ate and made some small talk. I had three coaches with me-one I actually rode with, John. He is an Ironman triathlete. If you don’t know what that is  it is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike—this is no typo, 112 miles not 11.2 miles and then run a marathon, 26.2 miles back-to-back-to-back in the same day. So, needless to say, I had experience to pull from in his direction for sure. He was having a bit of fun with me-egging things on a bit, but it was all in good fun. I went to bed very early.

Race morning body marking and set-up

We had planned on getting up at 4:45 or 5 am. Of course I woke up at 2 am and made myself go back to sleep until I woke up again at 3:15 and went ahead and got up. I ended up at WalMart-ha. I got ready way before the two other guys in the room (Chris and John) and then FINALLY they woke up. Then of course I just sat there while they got ready...tick, tock, tick, tock. I was very anxious-or basically just ready to get started. We arrived at the race site at about 5:45 am and parked about 500 yards from the check-in.


We got all of our gear ready and headed to the transition area (where you switch gear going from swim-to-bike and bike-to-run). I was excited about getting my body marked. The girl just looked at me and we both smiled. I think she knew it was my first tri. Left quad, right quad, left calf then right calf. It was so cool. This may have been the best part...haha.

So I then was off to transition to set up my gear. I had a lot of stuff (John told me to leave some of it but this was my first time so I brought it ALL). There were 1000 bikes all lined up in rows and looking good. I found my rack and set up my area...well I should say “spot.” I had about a 24" x 48" 'spot-not much room to rack your bike and lay out all of your gear! I managed. So now I was all set-up and thinking, "What now?" Tick, tock, tick, tock...

Finally the start…I went down to the lake where we were going to swim…much to my disbelief, there were people out about 100 yards, and they were in water up to their waists.  "OH MY, I HATE THE BOTTOM OF THE LAKE!" I jumped in, and sure enough, about half of the course was less than five feet deep. They started calling out the numbers to start the race. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10.  I was number 166. It seemed like forever, but I was glad I was not number 948. I ran down to the water and eased in. I started swimming but my hands were hitting the bottom. So I kind of stood up and dove forward then decided to swim more, still hitting the bottom I dove again.


When I made it out where it was deep enough, I was getting in a rhythm. At some point I remember thinking about the movie Cape Fear. This is what it seemed like when I was around a lot of people. Just a lot of commotion and waves and arms and feet. I kept up a good pace until I came around the last buoy and then I was dragging again and getting caught in underwater weeds-yuck. At one point when I would make a stroke I would dig in with my fingers into the yucky bottom of the lake and pull-really gross, but I wanted OUT OF THIS LAKE, out in 11:36.

The swim is done!

The first transitiion was weird, running from the lake, all wet and barefoot. I made it to my “spot” and grabbed my towel, put on my socks, cycling shoes, helmet, glasses, and GPS watch, and I was off. I got in a good rhythm early and really kicked it. I met a buddy, some girl on a really cool yellow/green bike. She would pass me and vice-versa all the way through the course. I never hurt one bit on the bike, and I was really pushing HARD. We saw an ambulance and I had 100 things running through my head, the first of which was, "be careful!!!" We had a long two mile bridge at the end of the bike which was flat and gave me an opportunity to take in some fuel and water.

The last leg

I was planning on the bike taking me 52 to 54 minutes. My watch said 45:59, AVG 21.2 MPH. I was pumped in Transition two and cut my time in half. T1 was about two minutes and T2 was a little over one. I ran my first mile at about 7:45 and decided to back off. My feet felt like bricks, but I was moving on. I thought to myself,  “you cut six or seven minutes off of your bike time, so just coast-in and have a good healthy run and you can work on beating this time in the next race.” I did just that. I went into Donnie Eden coach mode.


The run was out-and-back, so I was meeting people coming back all the way on the run. I spoke to every one of them. They weren’t as eager to talk as I was, but I enjoyed encouraging all the athletes. I had one mile to go so I picked the pace back up and finished strong, but with no sprint. I crossed the finish line and went straight to get some water and get my hams stretched out. I was grinning from ear-to-ear. I had done the first of many triathlons.

I found out that I am in pretty good shape for a 34 year old cancer survivor (I had Hodgkin's disease in 2001 and 12 rounds of chemo—that is what started the marathon I finished in the top 20% of all beginners (less than three tris). All-in-all, it was an AWESOME experience and I can’t wait to get the next one and the Hood to Coast and Chicago 26.2 out of the way so I can start training for a half-Ironman. I have already talked two others into doing it with me. My two best friends, Chris and Brad.  Let me know if YOU want to do it with us!




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date: October 4, 2006