I have always been on the huskier side. Although, I have carried my weight well and stayed active hiking and biking. In 2002, while mountain biking, I crashed my bike going downhill at a high speed. I was knocked unconscious, I just remember my friend finally coming back to check on me after he realized I was not behind him. The crash resulted in a slipped disc, which my doctor did not find, nor treat until the disc ruptured a year later. I was not able to walk for almost 6 months and gained a lot of weight. I was afraid I would not be able to return to hiking, biking, or any other type of physical activity. I was prescribed 4 different pain medications and had 3 rounds of epidurals. After months of physical therapy, I eventually started walking again with a cane. For several more months I had to walk with the cane until I became strong enough to walk on my own. At this point, physical activities were difficult, with my bad back and being severely overweight. My outdoor activities lessened and I became a true “couch potato!” My day consisted of waking up, going to work, coming home and sitting in my recliner watching TV.
The following year, I decided to challenge myself further and signed up and started training for an Olympic distance tri. As the months of training progressed, a work colleague kept trying to talk me into doing the Lake Stevens half Ironman. I was still so new to endurance sports, but I decided I should step up and challenge myself again, so I registered. I reached out to Justin and asked about the Tri Team he had joined, so he put me in contact with Kathy Morrison. I joined the team, started reading the newsletters and went to the team Video Swim in Covington, where in talking with some team members, I learned many of them had coaches, who had helped them tremendously. I reached out to Kathy and Patty to ask about the coaches. Both of them recommended the same coach, as they knew he could help with both of my goals: continued weight loss and to complete my first half Ironman. I met my new coach, Josh Adams for the first time and told him of my goals and race schedule. I had really stepped it up, having registered for six half marathons (two with the LLS’s TNT), two Sprint Tri’s, an Olympic Tri, and the Lake Stevens Ironman 70.3. Yikes!!! I had found a new passion besides fishing and I was determined to become an endurance athlete. In August 2014, I completed the Lake Stevens Ironman 70.3. It was one of my highest achievements. It was a proud moment in my life that I got to share with my wife Myra, family, and friends. That night, I celebrated and considered to challenge myself again and complete a full Ironman. I had truly turned my life around and found a new passion. Over the course of my training and racing, I had become stronger, faster, and a few pounds lighter, but I was still nowhere near what I perceived to be an endurance athlete.
I took some time to rest, recover, and heal, then talked with Josh about training for Ironman Coeur d’ Alene. I was really nervous, but determined to continue this new lifestyle and level of fitness. Late 2014, my Ironman training began. I had no idea what was in store for me. As the weeks progressed, the training schedules got longer and tougher. I did not register for the IM CDA right away, giving myself an out if I did not feel I could do the race. In talking with my Josh, he asked what I was waiting for, you will be ready, you have a strong engine, and I know you will be ready and able. So that night, despite my fears, I registered for Ironman CDA. At that point, there was no backing out; I had a goal and dream, which was to become an Ironman. Over the months, I continued to become stronger and faster in all 3 disciplines and had lost another 20 pounds.
The race started and we all started to corral into the water, the race had begun. I completed the 2.4 mile swim, headed to transition and got on my bike. Around mile 30, I began cramping, so I stopped several times to stretch, get out of the sun and drink as much as I could. I eventually completed the 112 mile bike ride, but an hour slower than I anticipated. However, I still had plenty of time to run the marathon and cross the finish line in less than 17 hours. I spent extra time in T2 to rest and cool down. I finally got out on the run course and started getting closer and closer to crossing the finish line. In my mind, I thought I had until 8:30pm to get to the run cut-off (I know I read that somewhere). I was running as good as I could, but I was still cramping. With the help of Base salt and the extra fluids I consumed at each aid station, the cramps subsided and I was running again. I decided I would conserve energy on the first half of the run during the heat and run faster on the last half. Again, I thought I had until 8:30, so I took my time, BIG MISTAKE! When I rounded the corner at Special Needs, one of the volunteers told me I had 5 minutes to cross the run cut-off. I said I had 30 minutes, he told me “No, 8pm is the cut-off.” So I started running as fast as I could, and crossed the timing mat at 8:04pm, 4 minutes past the cut-off. I asked the official if I could continue, as I had plenty of energy and would make it across the finish line in 17 hours. He informed me that my race was over, I could not continue.
Being pulled off the course in CDA after spending 14 hours out in the brutal heat, completing 127.8 miles, and knowing in my heart I could have gone all the way was devastating. I made a 4 minute timing mistake, which haunted me. With the support of my wife Myra, family, friends, and teammates, I decided to sign up for Whistler at the last minute to become an Ironman. Despite my fears of the tough, hilly bike course, rain, head winds, and choppy waters, I knew in my soul, I would finish IM Canada. Everything was going well until halfway through the run course, my IT band and hamstrings were really tight, and blisters on feet were screaming. Every time something hurt, I would look down at the motivation pictures I had laminated to push through the pain and get to the finish line. The first picture was of my wife and me with our little Jazzy in front of registration at Ironman CDA. The second was of my friend Casey and his son Troy, running together the day before IM CDA.
Troy was one of my biggest supporters that day and unfortunately had to see me be pulled from the course and see me heartbroken with tears in my eyes. It made him just as sad as me and he came over and gave me a big hug. His Dad almost did not finish the race. While waiting for him to finish, after having seen what I experienced, he was crying at the finish line. Mike Reilly saw him and asked what was wrong. He told him, “my Dad might not finish and I am sad.” When Mike found out Casey was near, he ran out to get him to run a little faster to make it in on time, which he did. While I was on the fence about signing up for Whistler, I was talking with Casey and Troy asked to talk to me. He said, “Ben, you are my hero, I know you can do it.” Those pictures motivated me all day to get to the finish line, not just for me, but for every one of my friends and family members that wanted me to cross that finish line.
I apologize for the long story, but this is “Why I Tri,” because I can. This former 470 pound couch potato turned his life around, started learning healthier eating habits, training to swim, bike, and run, and became an Ironman! I am truly inspired at every race when I see people like me, who are not the perceived endurance athletes, out there getting it done. Over the last 3 years, I have realized that there are no stereotypical one size fits all endurance athletes. While I still struggle to call myself an endurance athlete, I know that I am. Anyone that has the heart and determination to step up and get out there to race, no matter their body style, are athletes in my eyes. My lifelong mission moving forward into the future is to continue inspiring others to get off of the couch and try to change and improve their lives. Despite all of the challenges over the last 6 years, I challenged myself to stay tough and push through the mental and physical pain to improve my life. Not only have I changed and extended my life, I have inspired friends and family members to starting walking and running. It touches my heart when I hear from someone that I inspired them to get off of the couch and change their lives the way I did.
I do not get out there to win my age group; I get out there because I can now and enjoy the sport. I am truly blessed to have such a supportive wife, family, friends, and great RTB & TNT teams! Training with you and watching all of you race is what inspires me continue to push myself to get healthier, stronger, and faster. I may never win my age group to get to Kona, but I have a new dream and goal, which is to complete 12 Ironman races, and get a Legacy slot to Kona. This has been a long journey, which is just the beginning of a new chapter in my life! Thank you all for your support!!!