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Mission Accomplished, this Journey is over...

Posted Sep 03 2008 12:00am

I started this blog on November 12th, 2007 and have not missed a day of blogging for 297 days and it has taken me 3 days to write this final entry. It will be strange tomorrow not writing in the blog, but this will be my last "Training Payne" blog entry and most definitely my longest.

I started this blog to document my journey from fat to fit and how I could go from an out of shape 42 year old to completing an Ironman Triathlon in less than 14 months. I decided to start blogging for a few reasons. The first reason was that I figured if I blog my journey, it will put more pressure on me to train and not give up due to the pier pressure of those reading it. The second reason was because I have a bad memory and within a few years I will forget most of the journey, and a blog is a great way to record the experience and relive it down the road. And the third reason is that I'm going to take my blog entries and make a book out of them and give a copy to each of my kids with the hope that they will treasure it and share it with their kids and maybe even future generations. For me, I would have loved to have had something similar, documenting a part of my grandfathers or an ancestors life. Who knows, maybe one of my grand kids, or their kids, may want to try and duplicate the training regime I did for the past 9 1/2 months and see what it felt like. My kids have already told me there are NOT doing triathlons. Who knows, they may change their minds.

The reason I even decided to get in shape was because in May of 2007, I like to say, I had a mid life crisis, nothing harsh, but just a reality check. I didn't like the way I looked or felt. It was a turning point. I knew that if I didn't make changes in my lifestyle that I was going to be the type of person I never wanted to be, physically and mentally. I remember when I was in my 20's and was doing Ironman triathlons that I thought I'd be one of those people that would stay in great shape their whole life. I distinctly remember thinking at the time that I was going to do at least one Ironman every year for the rest of my life. I figured that I was going to break the mold and stay young and healthy my entire life. I truly believed it at the time.

Well it didn't turn out that way. I ended up getting involved in the politics of triathlon becoming the President of Triathlon Manitoba and the Vice President of Triathlon Canada and eventually overdosed on the sport. For about 3 years I didn't even want to hear the word triathlon. Then I decided to start a business with my Dad and that took up all my efforts, health and fitness were no longer a priority. Along that journey, I gained weight and lost weight and gained weight, although in my minds eye I was still in shape because I would still run and bike semi regularly and did the occasional triathlon with minimal training. For years after I completed my Ironman races I still considered myself an Ironman, and would tell people I was an Ironman. Then one day about 2-3 years ago, my business partner asked me in a sarcastic, but gentle way, "when did you do your last Ironman"? It startled me and put things in perspective. I may have been an Ironman in my 20's, but does that still make me an Ironman today? Was I becoming the proverbial "Al Bundy" and relieving my high school football years over and over? I did tell him I could still do an Ironman and he chuckled in disbelief. It was a moment that stuck with me.

I'm the type of person that "turns on a dime". When I make the decision to do something, I start immediately. I'm not someone that has to gradually ease into something. As I mentioned earlier, I had one of those "mid life crisis" moments. Shortly before I made the decision to get back into shape, I had a dream one night about me being in an Ironman race and not being able to finish. It was the first time I realized that I was no longer in the shape I thought I was. It was the dream that told me I needed to get in shape now or accept my current state of physical and mental health and live my life accordingly. To basically give up and live with my unhealthiness and accept the final results. I believed that if I chose not to get healthy, that I would die young, and as strange as this may sound coming from a 42 year old, miss out on experiencing life as a grandparent. It was a turning point.

The journey started simply. I trained for about 3 weeks and did my first triathlon in at least 10 years. It was a short sprint triathlon and I entered in the Clydesdale division (for guys over 200 lbs) and finished 549th out of 613th overall, and 76th out of 79th in my age group, plus I almost drowned because my wet suit was so tight. But it was a first step. From June 2007 to September 2007 I did around 8 triathlons, including one 1/2 Ironman and about 8 running races including a Marathon. During the way I lost enough weight to get out of the Clydesdale division. I was starting to feel good about myself again and I started to enjoy the word "triathlon" again. The one thing that didn't change was the people who do triathlons. Twenty years ago those who competed in triathlons were great and everyone was so supportive of each other, there was a real sense of camaraderie and today it is no different, just the names and faces have changed.

The people I've met along the way have been great. John Barclay is one person I met along the way that got me on the path to do an Ironman. Frankly, I just finished the Philadelphia Marathon and had no goals set for the rest of the year and was actually getting depressed. I joined a masters swim club and met John and he told me he did his first triathlon this year and was now signed up to do the Louisville Ironman in August 2008. He told me that they had not yet sold out and that I would still be accepted if I registered, but I needed to do it quickly. That night, I got home and had an extra spring in my step just thinking about setting a goal to do an Ironman. John inspired me because I figured if he had only done one triathlon, which was only a sprint distance, and then he signed up for the Ironman, then why can't I. Heck, I've done them before. After meeting John, and discussing it with Alice, I decided to sign up and my journey to Louisville began.

I knew I couldn't finish an Ironman without being fully prepared and trained, unlike when I was in my 20's, so I decided to get a coach. I signed up with Mark Allen's Online program. Mark is arguably one of the world's greatest triathletes, a hall of famer. The workouts he gave me I followed religiously. Because I hadn't really trained in years, my body was in worse shape than I originally thought. I had no strength, no flexibility and was easily injury prone. I had a lot of work a head of me to get back in shape without getting injured. I had to reverse at least 15 years of abusing my body. But, I was committed and scared of showing up to the Ironman without being ready.

As I followed the program I eventually started to see results. I dropped more weight and gained muscle and my body composition changed. I was actually becoming better toned than when I was in my 20's. My original goal was just to get into good enough shape to finish the Ironman. Then my goals changed. I was really training hard and could see the improvements. I was telling my Dad that I was getting back into triathlons and I can't remember the wording he used, but the spirit was a long the lines that "you did triathlons when you were younger but you were never really that fast". That startled me at the time. I always thought I was pretty good, but deep down I also knew I never trained enough to realize my potential. I always used to train just enough to finish respectfully. Those words surprised and motivated me. I wanted to prove to my Dad and myself that I could be more than a finisher and that I could become a competitor. That's when I moved the "goal posts" and decided that my goal was to beat the best triathlon times I did in my 20's at the age of 42. I chose the three triathlon race distances that I wanted to beat; the Olympic (1.5 km swim, 40 km bike, 10 km run), the Half Ironman (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run) and the Full Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run). Truth be told, I figured I had a shot at beating my Ironman time, but it would be really hard to beat my best Olympic and Half Ironman times. But I figured I may as well set myself a "BIG HAIRY AUDACIOUS GOAL".

I'm not going to go into all of the detail of how I felt during the stages of training or what I did, I've written about all that in my blog already. But I will tell you that setting those goals and being afraid of going through extreme pain and suffering during the Ironman, kept me motivated. It was a great feeling to ultimately achieve all my goals and beat my personal best times from my 20's in all three of those distances at the age of 42. And it was really gratifying to see that I became a competitive age group athlete and beating no less than 93% of the field in any of the races I went in this past year. And finishing 3rd place, and being only 2 minutes out of 1st place in my age group at the HSBC Gravenhurst Olympic distance triathlon was a great feeling. It was a big difference from being in the bottom 7% when I started to get back into triathlons last year.

But some of the greatest things that happened to me during the journey had nothing to do with performance. What I'll remember most is the people I met along the way. There was John Barclay, who I now consider a true friend, and others I've met at races and during training. When we moved to Burlington from Winnipeg 4 years ago I had a tough time adjusting to the new environment. Truth be told, up until 6 months ago, Burlington still didn't feel like home to me. But training for the Ironman changed all that. I fell in love with the countryside, especially the Niagara Escarpment, and I got to meet a lot of new, like minded, people. I felt rejuvenated and started to feel part of a community again. I now drive down the streets and don't think I'm in a strange place. It now feels like home, I rarely even think about it anymore. I met so many people training on my bike in the Niagara Escarpment, they included people like Tony Valentini, Mark Rutledge, Jamie Grant, Jennifer Boehm, and Alan Adcock. Plus all the people I met at races. My whole mental outlook has changed.

The one thing that goes without saying is that I have a great wife. Alice has been supportive the entire way and has never complained about the amount of training I did in preparation for the Ironman. She was always cheering me on at almost every race, and if she couldn't make it, my daughter Alyssa was there with me. I know racing a triathlon is much more fun than watching it and according to my son Reid, watching it is NO fun at all, which made it even more special that my family came out to support me at virtually every race. And for the Ironman and Half Ironman races I did this year, my parents even flew in to watch. As you can see from my blog entries, I trained hard but also did a lot of partying along the way. I balanced my two extremes. I also think, or hope, it may have influenced my kids in a positive way. The training that is, not the drinking. They have seen me make a transformation and can see what is possible if you set your mind to it. Of course the reality is that they don't see that, they just think their dad is nuts for doing all that training. When I ask Reid when is he going to do a triathlon and he told me "he doesn't see it on his to do list"!

The other thing that surprised me was the comments I got from people who actually took an interest and read my blog. Many felt motivated and inspired and that surprised me. I find it very difficult to take a compliment at the best of times, and when they told me that what I was doing was getting them motivated to work out, I had a tough time accepting it, as I didn't think it was really that tough. But I came to terms with those feeling and those comments now make me feel good. It's humbling and touching to have a positive influence on others. My parents also read the blog regularly. It was kinda cool because I knew my Mom and Dad would be looking at it and I felt it somewhat closed the geographical distance gap. At times I would write and include pictures of things that I thought they may be interested in. I also had some of my staff reading it, which was a little weird at first because your opening your private life to them, but I got over it.

This Journey to Louisville has been a tremendous experience and was well worth it. I'm now in awesome shape physically, I like to say "world class shape", and couldn't be stronger mentally. I may or may not do another Ironman, but my plan is to continue to do triathlons, stay in shape and be healthy. I'm actually really afraid of losing the any of the gains I've made. My next plan is to find a training regime that will keep me in this type of shape, but with less training hours and maybe the odd day off. It wouldn't be fair to my family to put them through another year of my constant training, and personally, I've been there, done that, and got the t-shirt, I have nothing left to prove to myself. Also, training all the time makes time go by too fast. Alice and I spoke about it, and both of us agree, this year just flew by.

Overall, the experience has well worth the journey, at times it was far from easy, and at times I was irritable and it wasn't easy for others to be around me, but nothing worth while is always easy and I can always beg for forgiveness. I thought I would be emotional after finishing the Ironman, but I wasn't, although I wanted to be. I wanted it to be an "alleluia, I have seen the light" moment. In hindsight I'm glad it wasn't. It just felt like I was living my life as it should be lived, no mania. I enjoyed the fruits of my labor, and now a new journey will begin. As a matter of fact, tomorrow I start training again for the Muskoka Half Ironman Race that is happening in two weeks. It was a great ride to Louisville and I'm just starting to decide on my next Journey.

In closing, I thought it was only fitting to display my Ironman finishing shot from 1987 when I was 21 years old and my 2008 Ironman finishing shot at 42 years old. As you can see, I intentionally wore the same style hat, put the glasses on my hat and struck the same pose.

Isn't I clever?


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