A 2 Year Journey from Non-Swimmer to 70.3 Finisher
What a difference 2 years makes!
Written and Published By Ken Junior September 2019
All these positive vibes!!!! So here’s my deal....... a memory popped up on Facebook this past weekend from 2 years ago..... Labor Day weekend 2017 my first multi-sport race in Central Park, a duathlon I did on a horrendous hybrid bicycle!
Seeing so many fellow teammates with their success stories and witnessing them firsthand, completing their first TRIs, half irons and Full Iron races, this post will be especially for the new comers here to be able to read this and see what a difference 2 years can make!!!! First things first to remember is you must enjoy your journey!!!
This is My 2 year Journey.....
This past weekend I was greeted with a Facebook memory, my first multi-sport race, a Duathlon in Central Park. I remember it like yesterday..... BUT how did I get to that point? Rewind to the beginning of 2017..... After having 2 kids within 20 months of each other, life got crazy real fast. For years I had followed strict gym plans, I’m a creature of habit and need to have my workouts drawn up ahead of time knowing how many and what weight to lift. But with the onset of this crazy life and the wife going back to work I found I couldn’t stick to anything of a plan or make time to leave the house to get to the gym. I decided the easiest is to put shoes on and go for a run, something that hadn’t been done willingly in almost 12 years since the Police Academy. It was always a struggle to put weight or muscle on so cardio always seemed like my arch nemesis. After not being very active for a while with no real plan the weight did start coming on easy and not the good kind!!! But I knew if I did a walk to 5k plan I would have a set schedule of run/walks I had to do to get there and it’s minimal time invested. I signed up for a virtual 5k with hopes to run a real 5k in June 2017, my first ever and planned to RUN it. So yes, 2.5 years ago I was doing run/walk workouts to get started. The day the virtual 5k came I was dying after! But I ran The WHOLE thing! A nice 5k through the neighborhood and I was smoked! Next came the police appreciation 5k in Eisenhower Park. I was digging a set schedule of when and how far I needed to run, and signing up for local races kept me motivated!
In the meantime, my wife was running a little bit as well so we can do the 5ks together and she would push the kids in the double stroller. Her friend had a crazy idea to sign up for a Triathlon end of August that year 2017 (Tobay Tri). I thought she was crazy but she can swim, which is usually the hardest part for most. As I was doing my 5ks that summer the day of her Tri came real fast. With minimal training she completed it on her mountain bike!
I was in awe of her accomplishment and jealous! I couldn’t even float let alone swim, so that idea was no way a reality yet for me. Then I found out about Duathlons, run bike run! I can do that! So I went out and bought a used hybrid bicycle (which I thought was an upgrade over my 15 year old mountain bike) and searched for the next one coming up, Central Park Duathlon Labor Day weekend! I remember showing up that morning wondering what I got myself into, I also did not know there were hills in Central Park! I blew out spokes on this crappy bike and my rim bent, but when I finished I was feeling super accomplished!
Next step was buy an even better new hybrid bike! A “performance hybrid w\ disc brakes!” I used this bike for the Cedar Creek and Carl Hart Duathlons that fall. After that I was seriously into it and wanted to train all winter, and learn how to swim! I went out and bought a used road bike and started going to the aquatic center and started teaching myself to swim along with another non swim buddy. It took a lot of sessions and time spent trying things I saw online but one day the laps started connecting and I didn’t have to stop mid lane anymore! What a feeling!
January 2018 I found Merrick Bicycle Tri Team and joined in on Facebook. I saw the name around at the Duathlon and knew I needed like-minded people and support. I always knew that in a positive team environment you can always push your own personal limits. I didn’t know that the positive energy and accomplishments would be as contagious as it was going to be!!!!
Early 2018 I did the lifetime fitness indoor Tri (as a member of MBTT), see how many laps you can swim, miles you can spin and miles you can run on a treadmill within given times frames. This “indoor tri” made me feel pretty accomplished but I still didn’t feel like a “Triathlete”. Come spring 2018 I entered into the Duathlons again and the times got faster and faster. I signed up for my first “Tri” at the aquatic center and my first open water Tri for 2018 at Jamesport.
The Indoor Tri swim at the aquatic center was a day after I did a random Spartan race at citified, my legs were fried that morning from all the stairs in the stadium! And my 400m swim was a struggle in that pool! At one point as I was hanging on the wall a lady asked, are you ok? I said no, but I’ll get there....... I wasn’t going to fail with teammates nearby that day. The day finished with a strong bike and run. And the Post Race feel was great! I felt accomplished but knew I wouldn’t feel like a true Triathlete until I finished my first open water triathlon in July!
And Guess what I did after this race, bought a TRI bike!!!! Cause you can never have enough bikes! Yes my 4th bike now in the last 10 months! There is so much information to learn when you are new to this sport, I wish I had found the team a little sooner so I could have learned the ins and out, like that a specific TRI bike even existed?! Who knew!?!? A lesson to learn from this is ask questions, do research and talk about things with people before you commit to costly purchases. Just remember it’s all part of the journey and process!
The weather got warmer, and it was time to try and figure open water swimming out. I went with my 2 buddies one morning May 23, 2018 to Tobay, it was cold and foggy and once I swam out towards the left aiming for the then white buoy, I freaked the F out! I can’t stand, I can’t breathe, get this wetsuit off me, and I’m going to die out here!!!! Back to shore I went and I messed around by the shore for a little bit. I thought at this moment I wasn’t going to be able to do this Tri in 2 months! But like you all know, you keep showing up, you swim by the rope at Tobay until you venture out 1 day and hit the buoy, then the boats, and keep getting outside your comfort zone!!!! I never got fast, and I’m still not fast, but I was connecting my swims and stopping to rest a whole lot less!
This feeling of conquering something you didn’t thing you could accomplish is a feeling we are all striving for, these personal goals, personal bests and just getting better overall. Remember to enjoy this whole process, there will always be people faster than you, people who have been doing this longer than you and if you remember that the race or training you are doing is only against yourself, and yourself only, you will get a whole lot more enjoyment out of the sport.
Jamesport came for July 2018 and what a beautiful day and race! The swim was longer than expected, I had signed up expecting a 500m swim but it measured near 750. A steady swim got me out of the water and I was ecstatic!!!! I’m going to be a triathlete finally! I just need to bike and run now!!! I was so excited I raced my ass off!!! My first real tri and surrounded by teammates who watched my progress grow all year!! BAM I took a podium spot in my age group for my first real tri!!!!! I was hooked and I immediately signed up for Smith Point and Tobay tri to finish off the season.
The feel good vibes kept coming and the training and races kept happening. I was getting more comfortable through all 3 disciplines. With no real training plan for the sprint races I was just following what teammates were doing. 20 and 2? Sure 30 and 3? Sure, 40 and 4? Sure I’ll show up for that. Then one day I said I’m going for a long bike!!! It turned out to be 56 miles...... and I had this crazy idea what if I go from non-swimmer, to Half Iron finisher in less than 12 months?! So about 6 weeks before AC 70.3 I signed up!!! Talk about a holy shit moment!!! It was getting real now, what did I do!?!? I swam the distance a few times at TOBAY but what was I going to do swimming with 2,000 people?!!?
AC came and with the help of teammates who talked me off the edge before the swim that morning I completed the race, in the rain, in remarkable fashion. What a glorious day!!!!! And my favorite all time finish line quote resounded true through the days after, I was waiting for this moment all through training.
“THE INSTANT YOU REACH YOUR GOAL, THAT BEAUTIFUL EMPTINESS, THAT ZEN MOMENT OF NO DESIRES, A FLEETING FEW SECONDS OF PEACE AFTER MONTHS OF SUFFERING.” – Brian Rose
Since then I have yes bought another bike, my current dream bike and have completed Maine 70.3, Jamesport 2019, Tri by The bay 2019 and going back to Atlantic City 70.3 in a week!!!!! This is just living proof of the journey and when you want something so bad that all you do is dream it, think it, and live it, it will happen! "Anything is Possible!" I had plans to possibly attempt Maryland 140.6 this year, but decided to really plan that journey the right way to complete a full Ironman Race, and put my all into it like I have everything else so far. I still get my panic moments in the swim leg of the races, but when I think of all the people I would let down by giving up, all the teammates watching, tracking and cheering for me, I owe it to myself to get this done and represent what WE are, WE are MBTT; we are like no other, we see each other in our finest moments and our worst moments, we are each other’s psychiatrists on a long run, and motivators on Strava when we don’t feel like putting the work in that day. This just could not be possible without this group!!!!! So take a goal, something outside your comfort zone, just a little bit at a time and keep forward on your journey. You can do it! We are all living proof, outside of this we are Mothers, Fathers, Doctors, Fireman, Nurses, Police Officers, Teachers, White Collared Workers and Self Employed People along with many other professions, but when it’s time to put the work in, deep down inside we are all the same. We are motivating, inspiring, uplifting, and a Team, a Team build on carrying each other even through our struggles within our journeys.
I challenge you to sit back and look at your journey so far, and see how far you have come and let the world know, so you can inspire others as well!
Cheers to the journey! My cups only half full, and I can’t wait till I fill it with your help!!! I think going from non-swimmer to Ironman in less than 3 years is pretty doable right?! Bring on 2020!!
My Journey So Far…………
Total Stats From My First 5k on 6/8/2017
19 5k Races
2 5k-10k Races
5 10k + Races
2 13.1 Races
2 Mini Triathlons
5 Sprint Triathlons
2 70.3 Triathlons
FIRST 26.2 10/27/2019