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.

The Racing Equation

We cannot always be podium finishers, especially within the readership of this blog or listeners of the podcast. Yes, we do have a few that finish high in the standings at each race, but the majority of us are middle of the pack to the back of the pack people, so measuring our success or failures based solely on where we finish is not reasonable.

So, how DO we gauge or successes?

That’s a big question, isn’t it?

There are some, even among the back of the pack groups, that feel starting a race, or just completing a race, is not enough to label it a success, and there might be a few more reading this that agree on that issue.

I am not one of them.

In the world of endurance sports the method by which you can gauge your successes, at least in the beginning, should be based more on an internal measurement than an external one. What I mean to say is that your success should be based on what YOU are capable of and the manner and effort by which you train or race. Only YOU know the effort you have given correct?

Let’s be honest…

You know when you have not trained enough for a race or event. You also know when you have not given 100% of yourself during the race. You may not admit to it openly, but you know it in your head. Personally, I have no trouble admitting when I have not given my all. I am VERY self-aware in this area. This has normally been met with graciousness from people, but on occasion, it has been met with scorn. I can’t let that deter me. Everyone has detractors; someone that doesn’t see what they’re doing as healthy or useful.

So, the bottom line here is that when you are racing and training, the only person you should be competing against is yourself, your history, your previous best effort or time. That is ALL that matters in our world.

But IS there an equation? A Race Equation?

I think there is, and it was pointed out to me by a long time listener, reader, and friend, and occasional co-host.

DFL > DNF > DNS

There it is, plain and simple, but let’s break it down:

DFL = Dead F***G Last

I have been here many times, and though some think I am OK with it, I am NEVER OK with it. I accept it, especially if I know I have given everything I had at that moment, but no one likes being last. Being last sucks. It’s soul-draining. And it too easily becomes a habit.

DNF = Did Not Finish

Just a step below a DFL is the dreaded DNF. It means you toed the line, started with the pack, and then for whatever reason you were not able to finish the course. Most of the time this is due to a timed cut-off that you could not make, but there are times where you get injured, overheat, sick, etc. that also causes you to call it a day. Pulling yourself out of a race is a hard decision. It’s a fleeting thought on some days, but one you can push aside, except for that one day where the mind and/or the body just isn’t cooperating. When I started this in 2010 I took great pride in the fact that I had never had a DNF. Every race that I started I had finished. Then came Disney in 2014. A race I was not ready to run due to an injury, but one that I was determined to start. The balloon ladies caught me at mile 8.2 and I got on the bus and rode back to the start. I still was handed a medal, which I did not keep, and was deeply disappointed in myself, but I could live with it because I know I was not prepared and it was the result I had expected.

Which leads us to the final, and bottom, rung.

DNS = Did Not Start

Before I start on this one, let me be clear. There are MANY times that pulling out of an event is warranted. Injury, emergencies, etc. come to mind immediately. A DNS is a VERY hard decision. It’s not about the money you have already paid or the hours of training you have put in leading up to the event, but about the admission of defeat, and the knowledge that, for whatever reason, you could not even attempt it for fear of further injury. The decision to take a DNS is not one that is taken lightly. I have had a few, and they were never easy decisions. What amazed me most was in 2017 at Infinitus was my decision to NOT take a DNS and attempt the event knowing that due to injury and under training I had a serious chance of both not finishing AND getting further injured, and how a couple of people looked at that decision as a failure, telling me that I not have tried at all. I don’t get that mentality. I’ll be honest and say that the thought of not traveling and attempting that event was very close to becoming a DNS, but I went and tried, and had the result I thought I would. A DNS is a horrible thing to endure because it will weigh on your mind for a long time. In my case, two years because I am traveling back there in 4 months to try it again. Not the same distance, but I have to complete this race.

So remember, we all have goals and ambitions, but the race equation is different for all of us.

World War Me

We all fight ourselves to some extent. No matter the odds, the abilities of the people around you, or the struggles caused by outside influences, the biggest enemy you face on a daily basis is that voice inside your head that tells you that you’re not good enough, not strong enough, not young enough, not tough enough. That inner voice is compelling and very influential. Even those that walk around you, strutting as if they have the world figured out, struggle inside. Don’t let them fool you. The ones that push themselves to be first in every race are fighting the demons inside them telling them, as Ricky Bobby would say, that second place is the first loser.

My biggest obstacle in training, losing weight, racing, is myself. I have a hard time letting go of the past, of letting the failures of my youth not affect the present. It is a hard thing to do for me. I relate everything to the past, to the point that it affects where I am now.

It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell. ~ Buddha

“Maybe I should push a bit harder on this run?”

     “Remember last time you pushed hard and got injured?”

“Maybe I should apply for this position?”

     “Yeah but it’s all politics. You probably won’t get it anyway so why bother?”

“I really like this person!”

     “Yeah but every time you fall for someone they crush you in the end. Protect yourself.”

What results is a shell that you start putting around yourself for protection. Even if you don’t think it is there, it is. I have been doing a lot of self-reflection over that past few years and have discovered this shell. Especially emotionally. Something that happened in my past hardened me to the point that I am just recently discovering how deeply the damage actually is. I know I come across open in these pages and in the podcast, but in many ways, I am closed off, especially to certain subjects. I have taken playing Devil’s Advocate to the point that even those closest to me have no idea what my true thoughts are about politics, religion, relationships, etc. I always take the contrary side, even if I agree with the person I am talking to. I really don’t know why.

For some reason, anyone taking a stance that they know everything and there is no other answer irks me, and I have a hard time walking away from it. This is true in normal life as it is true in training. Take the nutrition example for instance. Tons of data is out there showing that carb loading pre-race does nothing for you and actually can hinder your performance. They are actually putting this information in magazines and books. So why are there still so many coaches telling people to do this? Is it arrogance on their part (“to Hell with science. I know what works!”)? Is it just an unwillingness to accept that something they have done for years is actually wrong? Does it come down to just not being able to admit you’re wrong? Maybe all of it?

“It is an awful thing to be betrayed by your body. And it’s lonely because you feel you can’t talk about it. You feel it’s something between you and the body. You feel it’s a battle you will never win . . . and yet you fight it day after day, and it wears you down. Even if you try to ignore it, the energy it takes to ignore it will exhaust you.” ~ David Levithan

I am not as black and white as people accuse me of being. I just don’t discuss certain things. And to be truthful, there are things that are asked of me that some want a black and white answer to, that to me, is not black and white. For example, when I am asked if I believe in God. That’s a complex question to me. It is not a simple Yes or No, at least not in my mind. The simple answer, the black and white version that people want when they ask me that is “yes, I believe in God”. The more complex, and one I won’t get into fully here is “do you believe in a God that sits in heaven watching us and judging us and when we die takes us all into his kingdom for eternity?”. The black and white answer to that is “no”. But like I said, it is more complex than that to me.

So, even at the ripe old age of 55, I keep fighting this war inside me, this World War Me. The difference in this war than all the others is the only casualty is me.

I am the only enemy.

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 5 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, into 2017, and now facing 2019 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 recently if 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 278 pounds. Rick is back. And He is angry.

I need help.

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 Zendurance Now. 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 (as well as Jennifer) so I contacted her about coaching us, and she agreed. Meghan is “Up North”, so the coaching is 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 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 over 25 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 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. 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