IRONMAN- BECAUSE I CAN By Gordon Coombes- Executive Director
Two point four mile swim, one hundred and twelve mile bike ride, followed by a twenty six point two mile marathon. All of which, must be completed in under 17 hours. That is Ironman. What, or more importantly why, the heck would any middle age man, who at this point in life can barely run 10 kilometers, want to sign up for this kind of punishment?
In April of 2017, I made a decision to enter my first triathlon, a sprint distance triathlon. As the name implies, it is a much shorter and quicker event that starts with a 750 meter swim, followed by a 12.5 mile bike and a 5k run. I, not unlike many Americans, had let myself go. Poor eating habits and lack of physical exercise had me ballooning up to nearly 240 pounds. And my physique??? well… let’s just say that I had become more plump. Most importantly though, I did not feel good. In fact, I felt bad. I had low energy. I wasn’t sleeping well at night due to acid reflux, indigestion, and mild sleep apnea. I knew that something had to change. At that point, I thought, what the heck, I will try this whole triathlon thing. Hoping that it would be a catalyst to getting into shape. I started biking more frequently, I even bought a wetsuit and began swimming at Horsetooth Reservoir. I even began running. Unfortunately, my progress was slow and painful and I nearly succumbed to the belief that this is just what happens when you start aging.
The real change happened in July. While on a family trip to Mexico, I downloaded an audiobook to entertain myself on the trip. I looked up books about triathlon and stumbled upon “Finding Ultra” by Rich Roll. Finding Ultra is Rich Roll’s story of transformation. The story of a middle age man, who changed his lifestyle and within the span of just over a year, was competing at the highest level in Ultraman endurance triathlons. He was later named on or Men’s Journal 25 Fittest Men in the world. While listening to his journey from overweight to ultra-athlete, I found myself looking around the pool deck of the all-inclusive resort that we were staying in. There were a lot of men just like me, two hundred plus bronzed, or often burned red bodies, lounging around with a gluttony of food and alcohol. Aesthetics are one thing, but I understood how most of these men felt both physically, emotionally and mentally. I couldn’t help but think to myself, “I don’t want to live my life this way.”
I decided on that trip to make a change. I took Rich Roll’s lead and started a dramatic transformation. It started with a change to what I put into my body to fuel it. I elected to go “plant powered” by cutting all animal protein and dairy products from my diet. I also cut processed food from my diet. Most people would call that vegan, but I hate that word and the political connotation that comes with it. I have no moral or ethical reason for my decision. Nor do I have a political viewpoint that caused this decision. Simply put, I have discovered that my body operates best with little to no animal protein and little to no dairy fueling it. Within a week of my dietary change, my acid reflux and indigestion stopped and I started to feel better and had energy again. In fact, that 5k run that I struggled to complete before our trip, was easy and I quickly was running 7 to 10 miles at a time.
I completed my first sprint triathlon one month after starting my transformation. I finished in 2:00:25, just twenty five seconds over my goal. I competed in my second sprint triathlon one more month later and finished in 1:27:26. My improvement has been dramatic. My health transformation has been dramatic. The greatest improvements happened immediately following my change in diet as did my overall health and wellness
On June 10, 2018 I will compete in Ironman Boulder, a feat that I never would have believed possible. I am choosing to endure the punishment of completing an Ironman because at 45 years old, I am the fittest I have ever been.