Sunday, April 10, 2016

Beginnings and Endings.....

It's been a bit over nine years since I began the journey that brought me through this blog and to the point I am now. My weight loss journey sorta/kinda began in December 2005 when I turned 40. I was grossly overweight and told myself that it was time to take control of my health and get back into shape. That "idea" rolled around in my head for most of the next year without finding the motivation to start anything, much like the years before them.

I think it was the following October that I found John Bingham's book "Marathoning for Mortals"  and in it found the pathway I would use to try to keep that promise made to myself months ago. I also ultimately hoped to rekindle a long ago held goal to run the Marine Corps Marathon--an old desire from my days as a Marine.  I ultimately decided to run a half marathon the following May, and used a 5K and 10K in the months before it as intermediate goals. I had to start with walking more than running. Slowly, over time, I was able to run more than walk, and I met my goal of completing that half marathon on April 1, 2007.

Over that summer I kept up with my running because it helped me feel healthier and stronger and I found other races to do to help keep me motivated. By the end of that year I had done a variety of races at the 5K (2), 10K, 10 mile, and half marathon (2) distance. In December, I allowed myself to be talked into a 50K trail run, for which I was terribly unprepared but I did complete, though primarily because I the strength of will to keep going (or I was too stubborn to give up). In 2008 the stage was set for something that would become a habit for the future, I always seemed to find the next big thing. In addition to the 5K and half marathon distance, I also completed races at the 25K, 30K and marathon distance. Keeping a forward looking focus allowed me to continue in running.

2009 added more races at a variety of distances, and also my first triathlons. I completed a two sprint triathlons, an Olympic distance triathlon that was every bit the disaster that 50K was in 2007 and a half iron distance. Despite the difficulty in moving through a new sport for which I was physically ill-equipped, I fell in love with triathlon. My back of the pack saga continued with numerous races, and a good amount of weight loss came along in this journey, carried into 2010 when my biggest letdown of the year to come became the greatest thing that could have happened to me.

2010 opened up early with a January half and full marathon, a February half marathon and an early April 10K, but the race that changed everything was the late April half Ironman race in Galveston. In the previous October, I struggled to complete the race in 7:58:38, and was happy with that. However, this race was going to be different as I had planned for it over the winter and was training for it. However, it was not to be as I again struggled to a 7:52 finish, with which I was generally disappointed.  After that race I was left with the feeling that I could do much better than I had done, but I wasn't able to put things together to see that improvement. Ultimately, that led to a meeting with Michelle LeBlanc, a coach and former professional athlete. I went into that meeting thinking she would never be able to relate to me and I left that meeting thinking I had found the help I was seeking. For the rest of the year my training evolved and my results improved at races, by the fall my half Ironman time was down to 7:07:43.

2011 opened with continued improvements to the 5K and Olympic distance triathlon as it led to a May Ironman race, again the newer and bigger thing. It was a tough day for me at Ironman Texas (IMTX) but  finished in 16:35:49. The many races that came through the rest of the year showed accelerated improvement with finishes now coming commonly in the middle of the pack and another fall half Ironman of 6:21:22.

2012 was the year everything changed. Twice. My weight was down more than 100 lbs from its high years before and I felt great in almost any activity. By March 3rd of that year I had completed a half marathon, full marathon, a 50 mile race and then another marathon.This led back to that same half Ironman race where I had felt that I had failed two years prior. This time I was trained, rested and ready and I finished in 5:52:05--over a two hour drop from that failed race and almost a half hour drop from the last fall.The next month brought an IMTX time of 13:41:06, nearly three hours faster than the previous year! On July 1st, I had a sprint triathlon that showed me the unexpected results of my fitness, and while I wasn't completely feeling rested from IMTX, I still finished fourth in my age group and felt a great joy if finishing near the top of the age group. That feeling was enhanced over the next three races where I finished first in my age group in two sprint triathlons and a 5K. However, 2012 had another change for me as I was seriously injured in late October when I was hit by a car while riding my bike training for another fall half Ironman, and the rest of the year is spent working on recovery.

2013 opens with me not being cleared to even try training until sometime in February, but while being under the care of a physician and a coach I am able to return to training and complete a spring half Ironman and then Ironman Texas. Those were slower than they had been previously but I had managed to come back to complete them. Later that summer I was able to compete in the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championship due to my qualifying in 2012 and enjoyed a great opportunity to see the best in the sport up close.

In 2014 I start off with great hope following 2013 but find things not quite coming together in the spring. Ultimately I find that I am having some imbalances with my thyroid and endocrine system, and I sit out the spring and summer while I get straightened out. I also get a lottery slot for the Marine Corps Marathon and train for that for October as a fun race, and complete it, and this becomes my base training for going forward. I finish 2014 feeling a whole lot better than when I began.

Training starts to pick up again in 2015 and I have goals for two Ironman races and a few other events. Spring is all about base building and training. My weight is still back up from last year's health issues but I am able to train consistently. My races aren't as fast as they were a few years ago before I had been through injury and other health issues but I do complete everything in front of me. When Ironman Texas rolls around, I make some early mistakes and have a bad day. It becomes my second slowest Ironman race but it still goes down as a completion but not one I am thrilled over. After some thought on the matter I push ahead to continue my racing schedule with a variety of distances, which includes Ironman Florida in November. Training starts slow for IMFL but comes together. As race day gets close I feel like I am back to where I was several years ago, but am not quite ready to trust that it is true. Race day becomes the day of truth for me and I finish with a new PR time of 13:21:31 over my pre-injury 2012 IMTX time! This was the highest point for me in over three years for this sport.

As 2015 closes and 2016 opens, I do cover more races and even earn my tenth podium finish in February 2016. I have to remember that in my early years, finishing with an award seemed so far from reality. The path I have been on has been so memorable that I sometimes forget the details that happened along the way, but I do remember that I do these things more for health and fitness than I do for pride or awards.

All of that brings me to the last couple months where I have literally felt at a crossroads, partly because I am not sure what I wish to do and partly because of external circumstances. Over this time I thought of leaving the sports I do, or at least from doing events, I have considered whether or not I would leave the racing/training group I have trained with for several years, I have considered whether I would leave active coaching or change the nature of it, and more.........

Ultimately, I did a lot of soul searching, talking with friends, I read through old blog posts, emails and training/racing reports and got a feel for the big picture of things. From my first workout in November 2005 through today I have been on a wondrous adventure, one I have not always appreciated, but one many would envy the opportunity to experience. In that time I have participated in almost 100 races (current count sits at 94) and shared thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of miles with great friends---most of whom I would never have met if not for the act of starting that first workout and then following through with this adventure. I went from fat to athletic and found that my 40s were a wonderful time in my life. Here I sit in the first months of my 50s looking forward to the journey and adventures that still await me. Most of the races and experiences I spoke of earlier in this post are detailed in previous posts. I hope many of the experiences to come will also be detailed here in the future. I know I have lost my regular readers by not posting for the longest time, but I suppose I need to write for myself before anyone else might even care to read it.

So, what adventures lay ahead for me? I was picked for this year's Marine Corps Marathon lottery again and look forward to it! I feel it was the springboard for my 2015 success and will use it that way again for 2017. I think most of 2016 will be dominated by run training and cycling training to improve myself with an effort to best my PR time for Ironman Texas in April 2017. I may even sit out triathlon for the whole year, but I also have my first ever cycling only event next weekend. I look forward to some new experiences this year to shake things up and then go after some solid goals next year, and I hope to share it all here (at least from time to time).

The opening stanza of Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" has inspired me recently and goes as such:
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I have decided that, as my years go on, I want to keep having adventures and being able to enjoy experiences. I will not be giving in to age or other limitations I may experience but I will fight to enjoy these experiences for the rest of my days. My experiences of the last decade have served to set me up for the rest of my life where I now know that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to do. I have decided that this is not the end for me, it is merely the end of the beginning, and a whole vast future of opportunity lay ahead for me.

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