I’ve known Raymond now for a little over a year. He’s come a long way from being the obese guy snacking on Dairy Queen Blizzards. Now, after amassing a slew of medals from racing every major running distance up to and including the marathon and completing a number of half ironman triathlons successfully, Raymond embarks on the ultimate athletic challenge. In September he will strive to conquer the full ironman distance and become an Ironman. He will swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and then top it all off by running a marathon — 26.2 miles. His story is nothing short of inspiring and is the subject of his highly entertaining and enlightening blog http://roadtomadison.wordpress.com/
It is my pleasure to call him friend and to be able to share a bit of his story here.
You worked very hard to get yourself fit having lost quite a bit of weight before getting yourself into running. What made you decide “enough is enough”?, that you wanted a healthier lifestyle. And what did you do to make this goal a reality?
There really wasn’t an “ah-ha” moment. I have struggled with weight and health my entire adult life. I was obese when I left school back in the mid 1990’s and joined Weight Watchers at that time. I successfully lost about 45 pounds. I joined a gym and kept it off for a while. But then, I moved to the states. I lost my WW group, my workout buddies, my family, my friends, my routine and slid back into old habits. I regained every pound. I never exercised. I ate fast food every day (sometimes several times a day). Dairy Queen Blizzards were once one of the basic food groups in my world.
I tried to rejoin WW a few times but could never keep up the motivation. I finally came to the conclusion that I was too old to lose weight and my body was just wanted to be fat. This irrational rationalization gave me the excuse I needed to completely ignore my diet and weight.
I didn’t completely ignore it though. I was self conscious about it and would occasionally lose 10 pounds when my “fat pants” got too tight. This is what happened in August 2011. I was driving home, and had to unbutton my pants since they were so tight. These were my loosest pair of pants and I decided that it was time to lose 10 pounds (again). I stopped at the store and loaded up on veggies and low calorie snacks. My wife saw this, rolled her eyes, and must have thought, “Here we go again!”
It was weird this time. I still don’t know why, but once I lost the 10 pounds, I felt I could do 5 more (these pants are comfy, but those are still a little snug), then 5 more (if I am getting these pants altered, it had better be worthwhile). My cholesterol and blood pressure came down. This motivated me some more. People were noticing, and that motivated me even more. Next thing you know, I was in sight of my ideal body weight. By February 2012, I had lost 55 lbs., and had started going to WW again to help me maintain it. I knew that I needed “something”. But nobody was more surprised then I was at what the “something” was…
They challenged everyone to do a 5K. I had no interest, but did it in the name of “peer pressure”. Oddly enough, I liked it. It snowballed, beyond anything I could have imagined!
Your weight loss, maintenance, and continued dedication to fitness is I’m sure an inspiration to everyone who hears your story. What would you say to someone who may be reading this and wanting to do something to get themselves off the couch and on the way to being fit for life?
That’s a tough question to answer. I honestly don’t know what go me off the couch this time. It “clicked” this time, and I have no idea why. Ultimately, you have to find something inside that speaks to you and motivates you. I hope my story may motivate someone to find something they have a passion for and work it into their lives.
You got into marathon running quite quickly after you got fit. How did this come about? And what has been your motivation to continue running marathons after you got that first medal?
I tend to be completely into something or not at all. There is never a healthy middle ground for me! I enjoyed running and tried to push myself every week to go a little farther. I would listen to my body during and after runs. I would stop because I knew I should, not because I was tired or uncomfortable. If I felt fine the next day, I would push myself further the next time. By the time my first race (a 7K) came around, I thought I could run a half marathon. But it intimidated me. After all, I was NOT a “runner”. What business did I have signing up for a Half-Marathon? Only real athletes did that….
So, I did the 7K without difficulty. The next day, I went for a run around the neighborhood, and went 13.1 miles without stopping. I was kicking myself for not going for it. The following month, I had a 10K scheduled, and I upgraded that race to a Half-Marathon. The following month, I was already registered for a half marathon. I was doing 16-mile training runs at that point that I considered increasing to a full marathon. There was a group run in preparation for the marathon 3 weeks prior-a 20-miler. I figured I would try that. If I could go 20 miles, then I could get 26.2. I ended up running 23 miles that day. So, I switched the registration for a full marathon and I was so glad I did!
Couch to Full Marathon in 16 weeks. Looking back at that, it was not a wise thing to do. But, I listened to the feedback my body gave me. I never pushed it. I increased the goals only if it was clear that my body could handle it.
As a part of this process, I started to enjoy seeing what my body was capable of. It was fun doing the “impossible”. Every time I did, I got a medal. I really did become a bling junkie. But that is a little superficial. I need some short and long-range goals in front of me to keep me going. If nothing is planned, then it is easy to skip a day, or a week, of training. So, last year, I crammed events in almost every weekend. I know that I won’t let myself skip an event once I sign up. Seeing the wall of medals then motivates me to on to the next event. It really is a self-perpetuating cycle…
As if marathon running isn’t enough, you’ll be adding a 2.4 mile swim, and a 112 mile bike before you hit the marathon this September. I’m talking of course about your quest to become an Ironman athlete. How is training going so far? And what do you have to do in the next 6.5 months to get yourself ready for race day?
I am still trying to figure that out. With a marathon, you can run a 20+ mile training run to make sure you are prepared. Even with a Half-Ironman, you can do a 3-hour bike/90 minute run a couple of times. But, I won’t be running 12-hour training days very often. So, I finally gave in to a training plan. Many triathletes noted that they succeeded under the “Be Iron Fit” plan by Don Fink. So, I am trying that. But it peaks at 20 hours/week. I don’t see how that can train me for a 17 hour-long endurance event. But, I don’t see much choice but to take the leap of faith. I will be doing a few smaller events during training (100 mile group bike rides, a marathon, a Half-Ironman). I will have a chance to travel to Madison and spend a few days riding the Ironman bike course (and running the run course as well).
Have you thought about what life will be like for you after the Ironman? What goals do you see for yourself beyond this monumental race either within or outside of sport?
The Ironman will almost certainly be a one and done event…regardless of the outcome. I may try again if I fail due to reasons out of my control (crazy weather, bike mechanical, injury, etc.). If I am successful, then that will be wonderful! If I fall short, that’s OK too. I have traveled a lot further then I ever would have imagined possible, regardless of the outcome. Simply reaching the starting line will be the victory. The race will be the celebration of my journey and of all I have accomplished!
But, after this event, I need to reclaim some balance in my life. This is much bigger than I want. I will still run a couple of marathons per year; and I may do a Half-Ironman every year or two. I will certainly do multiple shorter runs and triathlons. I will NEVER bike 100 miles ever again! I will use events as a reason to travel and see different parts of the country. I may try an ultra at some point (another “One and Done”). But family, work, rest, and relaxation all come off the back burner.
And a tattoo. If I finish, I am getting my first tattoo!
You can continue following Raymond at http://roadtomadison.wordpress.com/