Over the past couple of weeks I’ve started planning my 2014 race season. I also looked at some pictures from some races that I’ve done. It actually happened by accident as I scrolled through my old Facebook profile pictures. Apparently I made a habit of only updating my profile picture after races, because since 2010 my picture has always been an action shot from a race. I think it reflects pride in my accomplishments at each race that I wanted to share those pictures, but as I flipped through I thought, “Wow, I can clearly see my progression as a triathlete in the shape of my body, my form while running or cycling, and even what I’m wearing.”
I did my first triathlon in 2010 - Musselman half iron in Geneva, NY. I was in way over my head and ended up in the hospital that day and coming down with Bells Palsy a week later as a result, but I was bitten by the triathlon bug and my lifestyle took a turn for the better. Since then I’ve competed in 19 more triathlons, three duathlons, and a few scattered running races. It made me smile to reminisce of all the races I’ve done, people I’ve met, and places I’ve traveled because of this great sport. I thought it would be fun to share a small story about each of those profile pictures (along with the picture itself) and what might have been going through my head at that point. There are better pictures from each of these races, but I thought it was most appropriate to use the actual pictures I had posted.
June 2011 - This was my second Olympic distance race of the year - Tri Oswego. I had done the Keuka Lake Triathlon earlier that month after deciding that I should backpedal and practice with some shorter distance races before attempting another 70.3 distance race since my first two were such nightmares. At Tri Oswego, which was a really small race, I put together my first ever somewhat decent performance. I ended up 4th overall (again, small field) with a time of 2:21:51. In this photo I'm actually pretty happy (despite the look on my face). Running was never my strongest sport and it has taken some serious work to not slide backwards in races after coming off the bike, and that shows in this picture. It was another "grind it to the finish line moment" but I'm not suffering anywhere near the amount I was in the picture above. I still look like I'm carrying some extra weight from the weightlifting days and still haven't figured out the "zip up the top" thing, but it was a step in the right direction.
July 2011 - This is a picture taken by Kate McKallagat of me coming out of the water in Ironman 70.3 Rhode Island. I was smiling because I was out of the water and am done swimming for the day. I also swam around 42 minutes (without a wetsuit), which was significantly better than my 55 minute effort at Musselman the year before. I flashed my "smile big so you have a nice, new profile picture" smile during the run to transition and Kate captured the moment brilliantly. I think in this picture I look like I'm trimming down to a reasonable weight (I was probably in the 180lbs. range, down from around 195lbs. at peak weight lifting era). This race saw me take just over two hours off my effort the year before, finishing just under five hours in 4:58. I learned a lot during the off season that year as I spent a lot of time reading and studying the sport. It was an exciting day, and it was made even better because I got to share the course with my friends Pat McKallagat and Kurt Dawley, who both completed their first ever 70.3 race that day.
November 2011 - My first Ironman. I think that up to this point in my life, this day, and the moment in this picture, was probably the best moment/feeling of my life. I started triathlon because I wanted to complete an Ironman. That was always my goal. I may have been premature when I signed up for Ironman Cozumel, (At the time I signed up, my best 70.3 distance time was over 7 hours. I completed Rhode Island the summer between signing up and racing Cozumel, so I had confidence from that and knew I'd be able to finish.) but I believed I could get better and I worked hard at it. Crossing that finish line is something that is difficult for me to put into words. It's something you can feel, but is hard to express. There were a couple times during the run that my eyes teared up because I knew that I would make it. The emotions of the journey built up and I had to really fight to keep them in check. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person to feel this way. When convincing my mother she needed to come to the race, I told her that this was my wedding. I was single at the time and told her I didn't know if I'd ever get married. I said this was going to be the most important day of my life. I was lucky to have her, along with my father, sister, Kathy Same, and Becky (who snapped this picture) there that day. This picture stayed up a long time. (Notice I'm zipped up in this one. I made sure I was ready for this finish line photo.)
September 2012 - In this picture at Ironman 70.3 Pocono Mountains, I had really trimmed down. I was probably in the low 170lbs. range by now, and I think it's pretty noticeable from the photos. I also have a team race kit from Towpath Bike Shop, which really helps in making me look the part. It's well known by anyone who I've spoken about triathlon with that cycling is my favorite and strongest sport. The bike course at this race was fun too. I'm in my glory here. I hammered out a 2:20 bike split (which in hindsight was probably overcooking it a bit), but I was having fun. The climate was great and the roads were a little hilly and twisting, making it a bit of a technical course. I ended up finishing in 4:29:22, which was a 12 second 70.3 PR over my second Musselman attempt earlier that summer.
November 2013 - If there is ever a feeling to top the one at Cozumel, it is captured in this picture. Derek DeMass texted this to me that night after the race, snapped from the live feed on the Ironman website. The feeling here, after putting together the race I knew I was capable of, was incredible. I committed so completely to this race in my training and made a lot of sacrifices to get here. To say this was rewarding is an understatement. I opted for the sleeved triathlon top to keep the sun off me, had my TriSports.com team shorts on, made sure I zipped up my shirt about a mile out, and just let emotion take over as I crossed the line. I was down to about my ideal race weight, weighing in at 165lbs. before I left that week for Florida. The feeling of crossing that line never gets old and the emotion of this moment is something I will never forget.
So there is my brief look in the rearview mirror and the visual progression of my short career as a triathlete. I'm not done and hopefully I will continue to develop and grow. I've set new goals for myself and am committed to continuing the hard work. I've got some great races planned for next year and am looking forward to 2014!