Tri Racers Saved My Life
It all started as a joke, really. Seven months from the day of my Gastric Sleeve surgery at the Mercy Weight Loss Center as I sat there speaking to their support group. I was talking about how a patient’s focus has to change. The first six weeks post op, you should concentrate on getting to your next meal. It is at the end of those six weeks, the hard part is over, and you are restricted to only what your body can tolerate.
In August, the airwaves were filled with ads for the 2013 Hy-Vee Triathlon. I had a funny PowerPoint slide depicting such an endeavor. Boldly, I proclaimed that my ridiculous goal would be to finish the Hy-Vee Triathlon in 2014. After six weeks, adopting a broader perspective becomes important. I needed to pick something ridiculous to work towards, even if I acknowledged that there was only a slight chance for success. The journey while working towards this goal was exhilarating and I knew I would reap the health benefits.
Of course, the joke received a way bigger laugh than I had hoped for as I felt out of shape. I was 100 pounds plus overweight and had never completed a road race in my life. I didn’t mind, as a humorous motivational speaker I was grateful that my lack of physical prowess was such a strong punchline.
After the presentation, a Mercy marketing gal, Kaitlyn, was in the audience and thought it would be cool for Mercy to sponsor me for the Triathlon. I was to be their poster boy for the Weight Loss Program and hopefully able to inspire others along the way. What started as a joke became real quite quickly. At the time I had no real idea where to turn for information on triathlon training. I than saw that there were signs at the local YMCA (Ankeny), regarding triathlon training. I started from scratch, developing a swim stroke that could keep me afloat for more than 50 yards without coughing up a lung, buying a bike and learning how to run. Perception says when you see a “Big Fella” like me on a bike it means I don’t own a car.
Day after day, little by little I trained and saw improvement in each workout. I met other people along the way who were working towards the same goal. I received encouragement from Joe Robinson, someone who has been in the fire multiple times and knows when to gently nudge and when to push a little harder. Slowly but surely, I began to get the hang of swimming, biking and running and more importantly, doing all of the disciplines together in one workout.
My first Triathlon experience was dismal as I didn’t even make it out of the water. To add irony to injury the kayak that rescued me was manned by a TriRacer that I swam with two times each week. Kay was sweet and supportive and I uttered expletive after expletive as I exited the water in frustration. I went back to the drawing board, trying to get used to being smacked around in open water, trained even harder, lost even MORE weight and finally was able to achieve my goal, which was the finish line at the Hy-Vee Triathlon.
Triathlon can be such a lonely sport and I was lucky to find a few other kindred spirits like myself to train with, complain with and exclaim with. We were able to form a bond that was evident when one of us wasn’t racing. The rest of us would be on the sidelines as fans encouraging each TriRacer competitor. One of my favorite moments during the season occurred when I was a mere spectator, biking around the CyMan Triathlon course in September with Joe to cheer on our teammates, one of which, a friend was competing in her first Triathlon. I am blessed to be a part of this group, perhaps it is the pain we endure, the elation we at times feel or the fear we swallow (as well as the chlorinated water on a weekly basis) but it takes a fellow triathlete to understand how difficult this sport can be.
Without fear of exaggeration or hyperbole, I can honestly say that without the coaching, encouragement and friendship I received from my TriRacer colleagues. I never would have met my health and fitness goals. When I crossed the line at Gray’s Lake (Hy-Vee Triathlon), I was down 95 pounds and all my core health numbers such as blood sugar, A1C, cholesterol and blood pressure were at or even BELOW the normal range. Something that started as a joke ended in an achievement that can never be diminished. Relationships developed that will last a lifetime in both the fire of athletic competition and social events. The TriRacers of Iowa allowed me to fulfill a dream that not so very long ago seemed impossible.