Friday, May 16, 2008

My Story

OK Guys. Here it is. Memorial day will be 5 yeas since I ran my first race, a local 5K. This has got me really thinking about the past, present, and future. I decided to chronicle the highlights of my journey from being an overweight smoker to runner and triathlete. I am also considering entering the contest for the final evo-tri spot of the year. I have found such a passion for the sport and really enjoy giving back. I especially want to get more involved with the getting2tri foundation that helps physically challenged athletes compete in triathlons.

Before I tell my story, I want to thank everyone who posted tips on recovering from my knee pain. I think I agree with Kellye that I likely have tight hamstrings. Since last year, i have had some nagging tightness in my hips. I am really going to focus on stretching and using my foam roller. I am may try and get up and do a short,flat run at a slower pace tomorrow and see how I feel. (10:24 PM UPDATE)Scratch that my knee still slightly hurts. I will wait until at least Monday to run

So here is my story.



As a child I wasn’t very athletic. I played baseball and soccer, but by middle school I had dropped out of both. In middle school, I was inactive and put on weight. When I went on to high school, I didn’t know anyone. A group from the school swim team came to one of my classes to talk to us about joining the team. They made it sound like so much fun. I decided to join since it would be a great way to make friends.

I really did have a great time. Throughout high school, my weight would fluctuate. Once swim season was over, all training stopped and I would put the weight back on. When summer league started, the weight would come back off. I was never more than an average swimmer. I think much of this had to do with my weight.

After I graduated high school in 1996 all physical activity once again stopped. I would peak in 2001 at 320 pounds. I smoke, I drank, and ate lots of Double Quarter Pounders with Supersized Fries. I could barely make it up a flight of stairs without totally being out of breath. Losing my father to lung cancer in 2003 was really a shock to me. It made me examine my own health. I decided to quit smoking and join weight watchers to lose weight. In 2003, I heard about this amazing event held on July 4th. The Peachtree Road Race is the world's largest 10K. Every July 4th, over 50,000 runners and walkers make the 6.2 mile trek down through the city of Atlanta. This event is so popular that when the race application comes out in the Saturday in the early Sunday Paper, if you do not send your registration in that day, you will not likely get in. I knew right away I was going to make that my goal to keep me on track.

I began a run/walk program and started to train. That race was all I thought about. Before I had decided to do this I would have never thought I would run at all, let alone run for 6 miles. I was an overweight asthmatic. Now I had a goal to keep me motivated. As I began to train, I decided to try out a few shorter races just to get a feel for what one of these races were like and to monitor my progress. On May 26, 2003, I ran my first race, the Celebrate America 5K in Alpharetta Georgia. I ran/walked through the 5K in 36:19. I had had such a great time. I was so excited about my progress and knew I was going to make it through this. I would run one more 5K in June before the big day would come. On July 4th, 2003 I lined up before sunrise with 50,000 other people to make my way down Peachtree Street. I was so nervous. I had done my training, but I knew there were a couple of big hills on the course. I would make it through it with about an equal amount of running and walking. Most importantly, I got the coveted Peachtree T-shirt. I was hooked.

Over the next few years I would continue my running. In 2005 I would finally go under an hour in my 10K. I had taken off 12 minutes from my first 10K two years prior. By then I started to build up my miles so I could try to run a half marathon. Unfortunately over the next two years, I would suffer repeated injuries, most notably several stress fractures. Also, after reaching my lowest weight of 220 pounds, my weight would fluctuate over the next few years.

In 2007, I turned 30. I knew I wanted to make 30 a big year. I decided this would be the year I finally made it through the half marathon. I found a local running group I joined so I had people to run with. One day I was reading the local paper I heard about a new triathlon that was to be held close to my house. I knew right away this would be my next big challenge for 30. Since I swam in high school, I already had good form. Over the years of working out, especially after my stress fractures, I had done regular spin classes, and I was already a runner. I also knew that by training for all three disciplines, I would be at less risk for a running injury due to doing too much running. I eventually found a used bike and began riding several times a week. I joined a gym with an indoor pool. Training was going great. I joined a local tri club and was amazed how friendly and willing to help a newbie these triathletes were. I would do several open water swims and group rides before the big day. I even attended a transition clinic the club put on so I had an idea of what to do come race day

On September 25th, 2007 I turned 30. On September 30th, my life would change forever. I got up nice and early and packed up everything in my car and headed out to the race. My stomach was all in knots afraid of how I would do. I knew the course would be hilly and I didn’t know if I could make it through all of it. I set my bike up in transition and paced through the transition area till it was close to time to line up. I was so nervous. When they made the announcements, I would find out that the swim course had been changed at the last minute due to the ongoing drought. Then, when I walked down to the water, my jaw dropped in shock. The water was so choppy that there were white caps on the water. I had practiced a couple open water swims, but never in such choppy water. I was a little worried, but I knew I was a strong swimmer. As the race started, I stayed off to the side to avoid being kicked. Because I couldn’t really breathe doing a freestyle stroke with the high waves, I did a breaststroke pull with a freestyle kick and would drop my head into the wave to avoid swallowing water. This strategy seemed to work well. During the swim, I almost had to stop and help someone who was obviously struggling. Luckily, he found his way to the kayaks. On the way back in, I couldn’t see a thing due to the rising sun. Luckily, the waves had calmed down and I could start to speed up. Unfortunately, I swam in too fast. I stood up and ran out of the water and had to grasp for breath. I learned two big things on that first swim. Tinted goggles are a must and don't sprint in so hard that you're out of breath when you stand up.

I didn’t rush through T1 and cleaned off my feet and put on socks and shoes. I ran out of T1 for a time of 3:11. As soon as I crossed out of T1, several people were shouting something at me. As I was getting ready to mount my bike, I realized what it was. I had put my helmet on backwards! I was so embarrassed. Of course my wife was right there to get plenty of shots of me fumbling with my helmet to put it on right. Overall, my ride was uneventful. I struggled up several of the hills on the course and took advantage of the downhill’s to pick up speed. I came in and made it out of T2 in under a minute. When I came out of T2, I made sure to run past my wife who was still photographing me. Once I turned off into the woods, I had to stop and walk. I would run when I could, but had to take several walk breaks, especially when climbing a hill. I sprinted in the end and finished in 1:36:22. I had such a great time and had learned so much about myself and the sport of triathlon. I had decided to sign up for a second sprint tri the following weekend and this one went much better. The water was much calmer; I had bought tinted goggles and knew not to rush into the swim finish. Both the ride and run went better. I even put my helmet on the right was coming out of T1 I ended up finishing right at 1:30. I was so happy. I knew right away after that first triathlon that this is something I wanted to keep doing. In October, I was finally able to make it through a half marathon. I went on to make it through another half in November. 2007 was one of my best years ever.

As I started planning for 2008, I knew I wanted to make it another big year. After much thought I decided to move up to an Olympic distance and set a lofty goal of completing a half ironman distance race. Since seeing a sports nutritionist and beginning a much more organized training plan, I have seen amazing results. I have lost 20 pounds in the last two months and have seen increases in strength and speed. I now weigh about 235 and am in the best shape of my life. On a recent training run I broke my 10K PR by over 30 seconds.

Memorial Day, 2008 will be 5 years since my first race ever. On that day I will be running the 10K and hope to PR by over 3 minutes, finally breaking 50 minutes. That will be a very special day for me. On September 28th, 2008, less than one year after doing my first triathlon will be another special day. On that day I will complete something such a small percentage of people ever do. I am planning on taking on that half ironman head on and finishing that race.

Finishing that first triathlon has given me more confidence in myself then I ever knew I had. I am already beginning to look past these goals for my next big goals. I would like to complete a full marathon either the end of this year or early next year. I have also begun to eye possible candidates for my first full ironman. I may even look to an ultra marathon in the next few years. With the right training and self-confidence, I know I can achieve anything.

One last thing. In 2006, Cathy and I decided we would get tattoos for our anniversary. I knew what I wanted almost right away. I got a tattoo of the phoenix on my left arm. For those that don't know, the phoenix is the mythological symbol of rebirth. I felt that was the perfect reminder of where I have come and where I am going. I dont ever want to go back to who I used to be

29 comments:

PreFan1982 said...

Your story is something else. Are you a member of a gym in Atlanta? We've got to get together to work out sometime when I get there in 4 weeks.

Steph Bachman said...

I'm eyeing a late 2008/early 2009 marathon too. : )

Lisa - Slow & Steady said...

Thank you for sharing your story. When I started reading your blog, I had no idea how far you had come in 5 yrs.

Also, I have had repeat injuries that often stem back to tight hamstrings, so now I stretch them well (for like 30-60 seconds at a time) at least 2x per day. That's helped a lot, but my right leg is still a bit wonky...

Heather said...

Incredible!

Viv said...

Inspiring story! Thanks for sharing.

The Young Family said...

Thank you posting! Great post very inspring to me. You have come such a way - that is awesome. I couldn't agree with you more about the triathlon giving you such confidence. I was hooked after my first one! I am not very fast, but I am out there doing it! It is funny how a couple of years and your are looking for even bigger goals, we have a group of woman that are training for our first full marathon. Already talking about training for a 1/2 Ironman next year! Em

Stef said...

Kevin this is such a great post! Few things:

1. This post really spoke to me in terms of the confidence that triathlon has given you. I feel the exact same way about what the sport has done for me.

2. You should totally submit an essay to Evo Tri. This post narrowed down to 500 words would be a contender for sure (at least I think so).

3. I am working on stretching more myself. Sports massage helps a lot too.

Like Lisa I had no idea how far you had come as I started reading your blog fairly recently. All I can say is WOW.

Can't wait to follow you through your half iron. My first one is in November of this year.

WOOT!

Wil said...

I love the phoenix idea, what an awesome story!

RazZDoodle said...

Great story! Absolutely inspiring!

D10 said...

What a wonderful story. You have come such a long way, you should be very proud of yourself. It is amazing how much we can learn from ourselves and how strong we really are. You will only continue to find success. I can't wait to read all about your half ironmans, marathons, full ironmans and ultras!

I hope you know how much you help keep us all motivated. Thanks!!!

Gotta Run said...

What an inspiring story!!! Cheers to making each year a bigger year than the one before.

Dreams keep our hearts young and I LOVE to dream big. Doing ultra distances are within your reach. Ironman is within your reach. It all begins with the work you have done to reach the point in your life you are already at.

Keep moving forward my friend!!!!

teacherwoman said...

Great post, Kevin! Thanks for sharing! You have come a LONG way! Keep it up dude!

Marcy said...

Thank you for sharing that :-) What an awesome, awesome story! ;D ;D

ShirleyPerly said...

Well, no wonder you're such a good swimmer. I thought you must have had some swim background with those swim splits you were posting. 100 yds in less than 2 minutes is a major struggle for me!

Great story and congrats on how far you've come. Good luck in the contest!!

Katie Weaver-Jongerius said...

Amazing! You really are an inspiration. Look at how far you have come! Best of all you are adding years to your life by being healthy and enjoying it. Keep up the good work and the amazing story...

cindy said...

Thanks for sharing your inspiring story...you have really come a long way.

I love the symbolic meaning of your tattoo. I got a tattoo after going though a rough patch when my mom died. (put on lots of weight, depressed, etc..) Like you, running/triathlon helped me. My tattoo is a butterfly, which symbolizes rebirth to me as well :)

Calyx Meredith said...

No wonder your comments are so encouraging! You've really been there. You have a great story. Thanks for posting it.

Mendy said...

Amazing story!! Loved reading all about your history and how far you've come. You can do it, and I am glad that I will be there to cheer you on for Half-Iron. My hubby will be doing that race.

Nitmos said...

That's a cool story with an ending yet to be finished (and, hopefully, a long way off!)

You are a phoenix rising!

Makita said...

What a great story! Thank you for sharing it with us. You are an inspiration. I love the phoenix tattoo idea - very symbolic!

Wes said...

A very compelling story Kevin. You've come such a long way, and now you are giving back even as you are moving forward. Keep up the inspirational work, my friend!! You will, someday, be Iron :-)

Kim said...

kevin, thank you so much for sharing your story! you are an inspiration and i look forward to reading all about your continued journey! way to go :)

akshaye said...

Kevin.. I was just catching up on my blog reading. Your story is incredible.. and so inspiring! Thanks for sharing it.

swimshady said...

Thanks for sharing your story Kevin. Triathlon has done so much for so many people including me. The story from your first tri was great. Actually, I was listening to the latest "Age Grouper" podcast on the trainer this morning and they were talking first tri stories and happened to recall seeing someone running through transition with their helmet on backwards, so at least you're not the only one. We'll have to meet in person at the SC Half in Sept.

SuperDave said...

Very Inspiring Kevin!

Linden said...

I couldn't agree more that completing a big event gives you the confidence that anyone can do it with the right training. Sometimes I even feel sorry for the people who don't think they can. I'm doing my best to change that, one person at a time! :)

September 28, 2008, will be an important date for me, too. While I haven't gotten into tris yet (my old running partner is running one in two weeks, and she's trying to convert me!), I'm running the Berlin Marathon--my first full marathon--on September 28! I'll send energetic thoughts your way that day if you'll do the same for me! :)

(I found you through the comment you just left on Frayed Laces's Marathon Man post.)

Tat said...

You are awesome! WAY TO GO!!!! Good luck in SC, you will do great!
Tatyana

KimsRunning said...

I found your blog from Sherry at Stiffy Legs Blues.

What a great story!! Good luck to you on all of your goals. I know you'll do well!!

Guy de Maupassant said...

Thanks for sharing your story! It's truly inspirational what you've acomplished!
Cheers from Portugal.