When the World Gives You a Jeffrey, Stroke a Furry Wall

Seriously … Aldous Snow is a genius.

He takes a simple phrase, which sounds nonsensical when you read it, but in context tells you exactly how to get through the rough patches that life throws you. A Jeffrey, in Snow’s world, is a mix of …

“Weed mostly, with some Opium, Heroin, Crushed up E, Clorox, Morphine, Some of its unidentifiable, oh and a little bit of Angel dust. It’s like a drug Neapolitan.”

… as he explains about 64:00 into the movie “Get Him To The Greek”.

“who could ever be afraid of a Jeffrey?”

Now, I know some reading might jump to the conclusion that I, too, am speaking of drugs, but I look at it as I think the writers were really meaning it, that world throws “Jeffrey’s” at you all the time. It’s never one thing that comes at you … your car breaks down on the same day your son is sick and you can’t miss work because you have a presentation, or you’re running late to training and you forgot you needed gas, so instead of pumping and checking bike you throw it on the car, then get there finally and you have a flat that needs changing.

Bad things never come alone. They come in three’s.

So what do you do when the world slips you a Jeffrey? In the movie, when his handler starts freaking out after smoking the drug, he tells him to “stroke the furry wall”, which is a wall in the club they are in covered in faux fur.

And that calms him down.

So the trick is, as I see it, is to find your own Furry Wall to stroke when the Jeffrey is slipped into your drink. Something to center you, calm you, refocus you on what needs to be done.

But, of course, life being what it is, something else will come along also to push you down that long hallway.

And it’s a long and dark hallway too.

It’s Kubrickian!


Life in a Fishbowl

I started writing this blog on November 30, 2010 (which can still be seen HERE). That is going on 9 years now, a fact that is amazing to me, in that the purpose originally for the writing was to log on a daily basis what I was doing and what I was feeling. The first 6 months consisted of posts that were short, to the point, and really not that interesting to anyone other than me.

Or so I thought.

Over that same time frame, people started finding the blog on their own. Yes, I did the occasional post on Facebook that there was a blog and that there was content there, but what shocked me back then was that people were Googling about things I was writing about and finding the blog without any input on my part. This is how I met Dave Baldwin. This was how I met a number of other people, both here locally in Florida and all around the country.

I never thought what I said or felt made much difference to most people.

There has also been over the years numerous times where I rubbed some the wrong way or made a comment that was applauded by some and booed by others. Most of the time, probably 98% of the time, I couldn’t care less, but there were times where it mattered. In the course of all these posts, I have only removed ONE blog from publication. Only one. For you data geeks out there that is 1 in 852, or < 1%. It was a post that got a bit too personal about my family and my upbringing, and it hurt people I did not intend to hurt all for a need to “vent” about things I should be over mentally. So I removed it from publication.

It’s still not a bad track record, right?

The problem with blogging, and the podcast, especially doing it like I do, is that longtime listeners and readers tend to think they know you.

On a much larger scale, celebrities have the same issue. Because you watch their movies, TV shows, listen to their music you start thinking you have a personal relationship with them and understand how they feel about things. I am a very open book on the blogs and in the podcast about how I feel about things, and I share both triumphs and failures (or setbacks) openly and without regard to how it might make me look to some. The majority of the time this has been received well, but there have been a few occasions where I was “brought to task” by some who thought they really knew me.

The thing is, they really don’t know me. Only a very few know me, and even they probably discover crap in my head that shocks them.

“Being in a fishbowl, everybody looking at every move you make, talking about everything you do – it’s just a hard life to live.” ~ Allen Iverson

The life you have lived always, ALWAYS, makes you the person you are today.

There are no exceptions to this at all. You can make a choice whether your experience is something you embrace or eschew, but it still affects you. I was abused as a young man (something that might be news to some reading this) and it affected me. Luckily it affected me in the opposite manner, but there are more than a few instances of abused men and women becoming abusers themselves. Children of rape don’t always become rapists. Children of thieves don’t always become thieves.

But … sometimes they do right?

“Sometimes people think they know you. They know a few facts about you, and they piece you together in a way that makes sense to them. And if you don’t know yourself very well, you might even believe that they are right. But the truth is, that isn’t you. That isn’t you at all.” ~ Leila Sales, This Song Will Save Your Life

I am not saying all that in order to get into a debate over psychology or neurology or to discover causal links between all of that. My whole point is that how we were raised determines, to a large extent, who we are as an adult, for better or for worse. My underlying point is that reading a blog, or listening to me on a show, doesn’t mean you know my entire history, so if I have a reaction to something that seems … out of line or unnecessarily intense … it probably is due to something inside me that I might not even be aware of myself. I like to think I am a pretty self-aware person, and when I do overreact to something I am one that stews on it for a while trying to figure out the “why” behind it. This is not a new thing. I have always done this. I am not always able to get to the root cause, but many times I am, and I always feel a need to explain a reaction, especially if that reaction hurt someone’s feeling or confused a situation.

I had mentioned in the group and on the show an email I got from a long time listener and reader that called me out for a few things I had said on the show and on my blog after the Infinitus race in 2017.

I am not going to rehash all of it, but what I will say that my INITIAL reaction was … hostile … but I thought better of it and let it sit for a day before I responded or wrote anything about it. I shared the email with other listeners whose opinions I value and they were very helpful in guiding me through interpreting it. The bottom line was that if you read through the often ridiculous rhetoric, the writer actually hit on a few things that I had said on the show myself, so it was nothing new. Where the writer went off the rails was a few of the comments like “you never finish anything lately”, or “how can you be a good coach if you can’t do the events yourself?”.

Both stupid comments and can debunked rather easily. The point being here is that this person, because they have been part of this group and show since the inception, assumed they knew me as well as I know me.

They, of course, don’t.

They see your life through the lens of their own perspective and sincerely believe they have all the information they need to make these judgments.

When people comment without all the facts they lack real empathy. When I was on the climb up Mt. Romance these people were not with me, they cannot feel what I feel, or know how much the pain was. They assume they do. They see your life colored by the historical precedent of their own and don’t know about the external elements of your life which have shaped the decisions you make.

Perhaps they are intimidated by your evidently superior (wo)manliness and the only way they can find to assuage their flailing egos is to convince themselves you need their advice.

It is easy to stand and comment on the lives of others when we view one decision in a vacuum and don’t see the bigger picture. Don’t hold it against them or argue against it, you won’t change their minds. Those who care most about you won’t judge you and they will listen with the intent to understand; not with the intent to reply. Most people have already made up their mind of what they are about to say before you have even spoken. Ultimately only you will ever know what you have experienced to lead you to where you stand now.

I think Brene Brown said it very well:

“It is easier to CAUSE pain than it is to RECEIVE pain. Don’t work out your internal bullshit on me”

I Am a Cancer Survivor

Although I feel I have mentioned it a number of times, both here and on the podcast, I am finding that there are many people that do not know this fact about me; that I am a cancer survivor.

I have always felt odd making that statement. Even though I have done a number of events (12+) with Team in Training, raising money for cancer research, I never felt that I was “one of the survivors” we saw so many times at the kick off meetings. Because of the type of cancer I had, thyroid, it felt like I was falsely placing myself in the ranks of people that fought through this awful disease much harder than I had to. I liken it to how I felt when I first started doing triathlons. Even though I have finished many of them, from Sprints to 70.3’s, because I was still a solid back of the pack participant it never felt right to call myself a triathlete.

But I am one.

And in that same vein, I am also a cancer survivor.

Thyroid cancer occurs when abnormal cells begin to grow in your thyroid gland (a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of your neck). Its job is to make hormones that regulate the way your body uses energy and that help your body work normally. Thyroid cancer is also a rare and uncommon type of cancer, so it makes perfect sense that I would get it, but most people do very well because it is usually found early and responds well to treatment. After it is treated, thyroid cancer may come back, sometimes many years after treatment. Unless, like me, you have the entire gland removed.

But what causes thyroid cancer in the first place, since it is so rare?

Most experts cannot agree on what causes thyroid cancer. Changes in DNA, like most cancers, probably plays a role. People who have been exposed to a lot of radiation have a greater chance of getting thyroid cancer. I, for example, served aboard numerous Navy warships during my ten years serving, which also had radioactive items onboard. Since I had no family history of this cancer, it seems to reason that this may have been the catalyst, just don’t try to tell the military that. Past radiation treatment of your head, neck, or chest can put you at risk of getting thyroid cancer.

Thyroid cancer can cause several symptoms:

You may get a lump or swelling in your neck. This is the most common symptom. This showed up the first time on my medical discharge paperwork in 1991. Right there in black & white. “Small Goiter in the neck”. Nothing was done.

You may have pain in your neck and sometimes in your ears. Not really for me. Though I have been known to BE a pain in the neck, that’s different.

You may have trouble swallowing. I did then and I still do now. Feels numb.

You may have trouble breathing or have constant wheezing. Absolutely. I always feel like I am gasping and forcing air into me. Try racing a triathlon, especially a swim, with THAT issue.

Your voice may be hoarse. I lost a vocal nerve when they removed the gland. There went my angelic singing voice.

You may have a frequent cough that is not related to a cold. I always have a slight cough.

Thyroid cancer is treated with surgery and often with radioactive iodine, which was true in my case. What treatment you need depends on your age, the type of thyroid cancer you have, and the stage of your disease. I had to go back from scans every few months to see if there were floating pieces in my body, which was then blasted. After five years I was declared cancer-free, and after 2007 I was no longer required to be checked again.

But the damage has been done.

Thyroid cancer can create havoc in your system. Once the gland is gone you are permanently hypothyroid. You get tired, have little energy, your muscles, especially the large ones like legs, always feel fatigued. You have trouble sleeping. You put on weight. It can affect your testosterone level (which it did), and result in other autoimmune diseases taking up residence (hello psoriatic arthritis).

So, the bottom line is this – I am alive. Yes, I have issues I have to deal with and will continue to deal with the rest of my life, but they are manageable. There are treatments, if not cures, and it can be handled when you set your mind to handle it.

Dead Zones

One of the hardest parts of being an adult-onset athlete is learning when to back off. We have become so ingrained to sit on our asses for years upon years, that when we do find the energy, the willpower, the need, to get up and start moving, the very thought of sitting back on that couch is anxiety producing. It scares us. This is a hard thing to explain to those who have never been on the “other side”, who has always been active. Taking a day off to them seems easy, and welcomed. When I have a recovery day on the schedule, especially on a weekend day like Saturday, I spend the whole day fidgety. The mere act of sitting still, relaxing, taking it easy is enough to throw me into a panic attack. I get images of scales going past the 300-pound mark again. Images of not being able to get up that hill the next day.

Just typing this is making me antsy.

I will find reasons to prove my point as well, even if some are concocted.

“Took a day off did you? Well, you gained .6 pounds because of that, fella! Get your fat ass back on the road!!”

Our inner voices can be very insensitive at these times.

And we listen to these voices.

“We have lost dozens of pounds yet see in ourselves the same, self-loathing behemoth we were 10 years ago.”

It never goes away.

We can look at pictures of us before and now, and see … SEE … the difference and yet it makes no difference to us in our heads. A day off is giving in to the monster, the 300 pound beast inside me that wants, so badly, to win … at all costs.

So … when I struggled through 2016 to 2018 with injury after injury, along with new and exciting medical issues erupting, and with it some MORE meds to take, I feel like I am at my wit’s end. I was not sure in December of 2017 I actually cared enough anymore to keep going. I was having a crisis of faith, in a way, and was about to give in to Rick (my inner voice has a name) and let the fat guy back out. I went from a low of 238 pounds in January 2014 back to 281 a few months ago.

Rick is back.

And He is angry.

The first thing I needed was to get a grip on was my health and injuries. Normal, and I say normal in the most positive way, coaches spend time on your workouts and training plans. I needed more. I needed someone to look at what I could do, what I have done, and what I can do, and try to help me (I say “try” because I am very hard-headed at times) work through it in a logical manner. This is how I found Meghan Fanning at ZenduranceNow. I had “met” Meghan through a few online groups I was part of, so when I was rambling on about what my issues were, and she started chiming in, I asked her onto the old podcast to discuss injury management. Once talking to her with Andrew on the show I felt like she understood the issues I was having so I contacted her about coaching Jennifer and me, and she agreed.

Meghan is “Up North”, so the coaching was via email and Skype sessions, but what I like about her is that she tells you what she thinks, point-blank, but not to the point that she’ll tell you not to do something if you really want to do it. An example is the Disney Marathon in 2015. I knew I wasn’t ready, she knew it was probably a mistake, but she gave me some pointers and told me to just take the race as it comes and not to be afraid to pull off if I had to. I did end up DNF’ing that race (the first time I had ever DNF’ed a race), but I felt supported, even in that failure. That is what makes her a good coach. She may not like or agree with something, but she listens and attempts to work around the issue without getting me killed.

Unless you count Infinitus. I do think she was trying to get me killed there.

So, the body was taken care of, but that’s the easy part. The mind is the hard part because I have spent 55 years screwing my head up as much as possible without actually tipping over to insanity. I have been told a few times, and once very recently, that one of my strengths is my willingness to look inward and mess with my inner doctrines. This is not something most people can do, especially men, or so I am being told. I find it interesting to be honest, which is why my undergraduate degree is in psychology. I find the way people think fascinating, but it’s easy to look at others and find their … not faults I think … wrong word … find their roadblocks. Each of us has the capability to be great. It is there. The hard part is unlocking the barriers that prevent us from becoming great. Being honest with ourselves, being Self Aware, is important in this. It is not self-deprecating to refer to the group, to myself, as a Fat Slow Triathlete. All of the parts of that title are true. I am Fat, I am Slow, and I am a Triathlete. So what’s the problem?

The term “Fat Slow Triathlete” has little to do with weight, quickness, ability, or even triathlon’s. It is meant to provide an inclusive atmosphere for the adult onset athlete, where support and acceptance can go a long way in bringing everyone to a healthier lifestyle. It’s way of thinking that doesn’t allow for obstacles to get in the way of the things you want to achieve. If you’re “fat” … so what? “Slow”? ….so what? It’s a way of saying, yes I am Fat (or obese, or overly tall, or old, or young), and I am slow (or injured, or tired) but I can get off the couch and train, and I can compete in and complete any race I set my mind to complete.

A large portion of my change was based on getting my life together. By that, I mean deciding that enough is enough and making the effort to change your way of thinking and living. Although hard, it is not as difficult as you may think, once you get the initial “lethargy” over with as your body is readjusting. The hard part is facing the shaking heads, the tuts, and clicks of tongues, from people who at first ask you how you’re losing so much weight, and then when you tell them how, proceed to tell you how that is not going to work, despite having proof right in front of them to the contrary. It is amazing to me the reaction you get from people, especially those closest to you when you try to share with them what you have been doing to change. It’s as if they take offense to the fact that you are improving yourself like they are being personally attacked. They tell you all sorts of things: You’re neglecting your family! You’re obsessed and that is not healthy! You’re being a zealot!

They don’t see the full picture.

If you are struggling, I wholeheartedly recommend seeking out a coach, whether it be a fitness coach or a life coach. Do your due diligence and find one that matches your personality or fills a need you have in your life. I use joke a lot about how Tara Newman would ask me blunt questions like “well when you finish an Ironman, do you expect to be different?” … reminds me of something my grandfather would have said. My grandfather was my first “life coach”. He had his faults, as do we all, but he had this old world Italian way of looking at things that cut through the bullshit and hit the nail on the head. I have striven, in my life, to be like he was, at least in that manner. He has been gone for almost 30 years now and I have been missing that person in my life ever since. So after struggling for that long with no one, I am starting, at this advanced stage, to fill that void with people I think like, act like, or wish to emulate in some way.

Andrew Weaver and I used to talk on the show about self-destruction or holding back just enough so that you had a reason for not being at the top of your game in training or in a race. It may not seem related but I think it is. A part of me was destroyed in that situation, and I am not sure that I ever fully recovered. There is always a sense of “distrust” in me about relationships, a stand-offishness that allows me the ability to not be hurt if the relationship ends. I have been doing better though. Suffice to say, though, that some can be traced to my inner shittiness and cold-hearted side at the most inopportune moments. I can be an asshole to the nth degree at times. Being aware of it doesn’t make it right though. So, as far as training goes, it’s that part of me that just assumes failure.

Just wrap me up now

Realism & Goals

I had such lofty goals when I started this journey in 2010.

I was going to be an Ironman. Everything I did was focused on that goal. Being an Ironman, and being one as quickly as possible.

I raced through 2011, and though I had my issues I pushed ever forward to sign up for my first 70.3 race in 2012. Florida Ironman 70.3 in Haines City. Huge issue in the swim, a slow bike, and a brutal run … but I finished.

So I signed up for another one. Ironman Augusta 70.3. Slow swim, awful bike, brutal run. But I finished.

See a pattern emerging?

So in 2013, I signed up for two more; a HITS in Ocala and Augusta again.

Slow swims, awful bikes, brutal runs.

But I finished.

2014 became the “Year of the Ironman”. I waited by my computer, constantly tapping the refresh key for the entry opening, and got into Ironman Chattanooga.

Then reality set in. Jennifer moved to Ocala, so I lost my daily training partner, and to top it off my body started rebelling. In April 2014 I found out that I had psoriatic arthritis, which was causing my body to inflame at the slightest provocation, in addition to degeneration of joints in both wrists, both feet and ankles, and the L5-S1.

But I did not drop out of the race.

I kept pushing through the summer, feeling hurt all the time, taking days to recover even from medium length workouts, and test races getting slower and slower. Instead of improving I was getting worse.

I finally called the race in July. My first intention was to downgrade to Ironman Austin 70.3, but even that was not going to happen with the way my training was going, and the way the weight I had lost was now creeping back up.

So, as I approached 2015 the plan was to reboot the process. Return to sprints until I could get a handle on the health and body issues. I told myself that maybe long distances was not for me. Maybe I was more suited to sprints, with an occasional Olympic thrown in to test every once in a while.

But there is still a nagging feeling in my brain, and in my soul.

I am now into 2019 and even though I have pulled back from 70.3 racing and the 140.6 distance, the dream of doing these is still present in me. Is setting a goal “age” a bad thing? I had stated in a post once that my target to move up to 70.3 distances again was a sprint in under 90 minutes (my fastest now is just over 2 hours) and my goal for the move to a 140.6 was a 70.3 in under 7 hours. I think that is still a reasonable goal, but my body is still hanging on to weight and my times are not improving (though my overall recovery seems to be getting better).

Is a 140.6 in my 60th year a reasonable goal? I will turn 56 in September, so that is a 14-year journey from start to finish. Is that too far away to be realistic?

Some reading this will question why I still feel the need to get this race done. I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t especially enjoy road running (though running on trails is a whole different matter), or even biking, long drawn out distances, and the motivation to train alone is still not there, so why am I still clinging to these lofty dreams of finishing races that seem so far out of reach?

Maybe the thought of stopping is just too scary?

There is a part of me that is drawn to goals that seem out of reach, even if the motivation, and the wherewithal, to do these things are not there.

I see someone running an ultra race of 100 miles and I want to do that.

I read about Scott Jurek running the Appalachian Trail and I want to do that.

I watch as someone runs the Sahara desert and I want to do that.

Is it a bad thing to set a goal that is not a realistic one, or is it better to set goals that one can reasonable obtain?

Watching the debates back in 2016 (not a political statement … I watch ALL debates so I can make an informed decision not based on party) and one question put to a candidate started along the lines of “you promised to create 250,000 jobs but you only created 125,000 …. ” and the answer was that he believes in setting the bar high instead of setting them to be easy. I think I agree with that, but the problem arises when others see this goal as a failure. The person posing the question obviously framed it as a failure to create 125,000 jobs, and not focused on the 125,000 he did create. The same happened to another candidate when it was posed to them that the state they are from is so many millions in deficit, blah blah blah, and their answer was “you should have seen it when I got there. Yes, we are 12 million in the red now but we were 600 million in the red when I took office”.

It is framed as a failure when in fact it is a success.

I have wavered lately on being a bit down on myself. It is frustrating to only be able to muster a 14 mph pace on the bike when two-three years ago my normal pace was 18 mph. But the thing is that a year ago I could only get to 12 mph. In fact, I have improved. I can frame it as a success instead of framing it as a failure.

Swimming is another issue recently. I have started swimming with a Masters Group after much pushing from a few people and got over my … not fear but hesitance to look foolish. I have been swimming a while now but have never really gotten over the anxiety and the discomfort in my head. Swimming three days a week has alleviated some of that but I was still talking the other day about how I still was “the slowest person there”. I was doing it again. In January I was doing a full workout of 1,700 yards at a 100 pace of 2:36. Those recent Saturday my workout was 4,000 yards at a pace of 1:48. But again, not seeing the improvement, I still focused on my ability in relation to all of the others there.

Bad John!

The fact is that you get better after each event, after each session, in some way. My pace may be slower, but my recovery has gotten better. I may be doing shorter distances but two years ago, even though my average pace was 18 mph I could not have climbed Sugarloaf Mountain on a bike or swam 4,000 yards.

Today I can.

I have gotten better.

So, I will keep my goal of Ironman, and set it for when I am 60.

Seems a good year.

A pivotal year.

See you in 2023.

The New Version

Halfway through 2019 and looking ahead to 2020 I am still trying to get a handle on the changes I have been experiencing in health and wellness. I have learned over the last 9+ years that this might well entail exploring training and nutrition that continues to challenge conventional wisdom.

What??? John wants to challenge Conventional Wisdom??? How unlike him!!!

Challenging CW, the tried and true methods clung to by most athletes and then TALKING ABOUT IT on social media can lead to a lot of heated discussions. Challenging someone’s perspectives or beliefs, like “you do not require sugar to complete a marathon”, is taken as a personal attack.

I believe that all runners and triathletes secretly own stock in either GU, Hammer Gel, or both.

Bottom line is that it IS possible to remove sugar from your diet and training and perform perfectly fine.

Does sugar help? Yep, it does. Is it required? Nope, it’s not.

Throwing sugar into your system is like stoking a fire using pine needles. It will burn, and it will burn hot, but it will also burn quickly, requiring more pine needles, almost a constant supply, to keep it lit.

Personally, I do not like how sugar makes me feel, even in small quantities, but especially in large amounts over 5 to 7 hours. I have known other athletes who have GI issues who take in sugar and then complain about their GI issues, but for some reason, they continue to do it. I just don’t understand that. I would rather learn how to go long distances without requiring enough sugar intake to become the lead character in Alice Cooper’s “Unfinished Sweet”.

Google it … you know you want to …

And … let’s be honest here for a moment. Most people are not doing sugar because they NEED sugar. They are doing it because they WANT sugar. There are plenty of studies showing fat adaption works and you can reduce if not eliminate your sugar intake, yet people still stuff ten GU packs into their bike jerseys before 30-mile rides. Why? Because they like sugar, and they are NOT giving it up.

So many methods have been shown to not work, and in some cases actually, hinder training and races. Carb loading doesn’t work but races still offer pasta dinners the night before. Ice Baths has been shown to hinder muscle growth and adaption but people are still sitting in 40-degree water. I really don’t care either way, but let’s stop bullshitting each other about the real reason you do these things.

My focus in 2019 is to “be different”. And different for the better.

As with most things in my training, it will depend greatly on my body and how it handles the stress of training. I have no idea what havoc lays ahead, but I know the foot issue that has been plaguing me for years has subsided and the weight is on a downward trend again, especially in the past week. I have also started to understand that GOALS are really not the point. I need to focus on the SYSTEM. By getting the system locked down, the goals will happen on their own.

This is yet another reinvention. John 2.0 circa 2019.

The Wisdom of A Clockwork Orange

“Welly, welly, welly, welly, welly, welly, well. To what do I owe the extreme pleasure of this surprising visit?”

As I am working through motivation issues, remembrances of lines from my favorite movie keep popping up in my head (some of you know I have done this before with “Fight Club” and “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy“). The mere fact that “A Clockwork Orange” is my all time favorite movie tells you more about my psyche than you really want to know and should probably warn you against posts like this, but you’re triathletes (for the most part), and I know you will power through this, and hopefully not emerge on the other side questioning whether or not you ought to be associating with me. 🙂

“Come with Uncle,” I said, “and hear all proper. Hear angel trumpets and devil trombones. You. Are. invited.”

All of the issues you have during training; the injuries, the self-doubt, the lack of motivation, all seems to vanish on the morning of the race. Are you anxious? Oh yeah. Butterflies? Definitely. But when the horn sounds, the racer in you kicks in and by two or three strokes into the swim you are in race mode. Pain is not there anymore. Will you have issues during the race? Of course. But unless it’s a serious injury, like a broken limb, or a mechanical issue that can’t be fixed, you’re going to soldier on. Because you’re a triathlete. A different breed of person. You’re not a runner. You’re not a cyclist. You’re not a swimmer. You’re all three. I have seen people carrying their bikes to finish the leg. You will finish if you have to crawl or they pull you from the course.

“Let’s get things nice and sparkling clear. This sarcasm – if I may call it such, is very unbecoming of you, oh my brothers”

Detractors and naysayers abound. There will be people telling you that you’re crazy to be doing this stuff. “Why?” the will ask you, “Are you subjecting yourself to this daily regimen”. You’d answer, but you really don’t know the answer.

“Because,” you squeak out, “I have to.” It’s really the best answer you can offer.

The saddest part of this is the loudest naysayers are the ones closest to you. Your family. Your longtime friends. They have become accustomed to you being fat, being slovenly, being lazy. They like you in this way. Anything outside of THIER comfort zone unnerves them. “You’re neglecting your family” they will say. “How are you spending any quality time with your kids?” others will chime in. My answer to them is simple. When I woke up on May 17, 2010, and stepped on the scale and saw it pass 300 pounds, the first thing in my head, the FIRST thing, was my family.

“I am going to drop dead by the time I am 50,” was my first thought. “What are they going to do if I am gone?” was my second. “What kind of example am I setting for my (then) 15-year-old son??”.

It may seem to outsiders that I am being selfish and only doing it for me, and while it is true I do a lot of it for me, the motivation at the beginning was to take care of myself so that I could be here 30 years from now to see my grandchildren.

If that is “being selfish”, well, then I am I guess. But seriously, I think being a fat, lazy slob that dies at 50 because they couldn’t do without the piece of cheesecake is the selfish one. He is now gone.

“Have you some new torture for me, you bratchny?” “Well, well, well, well. If it isn’t fat, stinking billygoat Billy-Boy in poison. How art thou, thy globby bottle of cheap, stinking chip-oil? Come and get one in the yarbles, if you have any yarbles, you eunuch jelly thou.”

Don’t you just love coaches?

The good ones have a way of both building up your confidence and tear you to pieces at the very same time. It’s kind of fun to witness (though a lot more fun to watch than to have it happen to you). It’s always fun to get that Sunday evening email with the weekly schedule. The first reaction is always “OH MY GOD DOES SHE THINK I AM SUPERMAN???” which usually leads to an email from me.

Her answer?

“Just give it a try. If you can’t do it all, do what you can. Adjust it accordingly. You’ll be fine.”

And, of course, I always am fine. I can always do what she wrote down for me. She knows more about my ability than I do and has shown a unique ability to see through my bullshit from time to time and call me on it.

Having a good training partner is paramount to this, and in this area I am lucky. My past partner, Jennifer, was always ready to go, always will try the new thing (unless it is about weight training or eliminating Splenda from the diet). She pushed me when I couldn’t push myself, and I hope I did the same for her. I have also had others motivate and influence me, some in ways they are not even aware, some by pissing me off because they keep beating me, some because they run so effortlessly, at least to me, some because the bike or swim like demons, some because I know their struggles and they are still out there, and some because they are just friendly people and fun to be around. They all contribute in some way, and I am happy to have met them all over the past 9 years.

“What we were after now was the old surprise visit. That was a real kick and good for laughs and lashings of the old ultraviolence.”

Along with the coaching are the online forums that we all dutifully enter every aspect of our training. Garmin Connect, Daily Mile, Twitter, FaceBook, MyFitnessPal, Training Peaks, Strava, Swim.com, Apple Health. The people in these forums will keep you on your toes. Miss logging a few days? Oh, you can expect a note from SOMEONE calling you on it. I got a response from a blog post once stating “…I have noticed your bike totals have gone down since the 70.3…”

What?? Someone is paying attention????

They called me on it, and they were right, and it motivates you to get off your ass and get back on the damn bike!!

I appreciate this kind of “kick in the yarbles”. Being held accountable is what works. It’s why being part of a team works. You’re just not out there for you, you’re a part of a group, a team, that has a like-minded goal, and they depend on you to be there, and be ready. Nothing motivates more than that team mentality.

“It’s funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen.”

So there it is – my Triathlon version of A Clockwork Orange. Much like Alex felt when being made to watch violence at the same time as he was being made sick, the end result is that you are who you are, and you will adapt to accept any changes made to you in order to meet the true inner self.

I have been struggling recently with motivation. But what I need to find, and will find, was that burning desire to NOT be who I was becoming and find somewhere inside that 300-pound frame the younger man that I was. I wasted a good bit of my life in pursuits of things I had no business pursuing, and I have paid for them both mentally and physically. I hope that this change in my life the past 9 years did not come too late. My brother Michael said something to me once and it sticks in my head every day, especially when I start doubting and thinking I should just give up. We were talking one day about health, and the fact that we have both survived cancer scares (his was testicular, mine was thyroid) and why he has the hobbies and interests he has.

He said “Johnny, I may die tomorrow, or next year, or in ten years, but when I die I don’t want it to be by something I could have prevented.”

At times, my brother can be a very wise man.