In 2012 I began a new chapter in life. I decided to deal with my PTSD in healthier ways and move forward. I became a father in November of 2013 and celebrating the birth of my daughter Adeline has turned November from a month of loss and grief into celebration and life.
Another big turning point in life came in the fall of 2014 while on vacation in Hawaii. My family and I happened to be there the same week as the Ironman World Championship in Kona. The day of the race we watched the athletes speed past our hotel on their bikes. Something about seeing this live and watching people who had spent money to swim 2.4 miles, then bike 112 miles, then RUN A MARATHON immediately after that both inspired and terrified me. A tiny voice in my head dared to suggest that maybe I could do this. This is the next step, it whispered. The voice began to get louder that week until I wondered out loud to a friend about “maybe looking into this whole triathlon thing.” Less than a month after Kona I signed up for my first 70.3 aka Half-Ironman triathlon.
I had a background in distance running from my time in the Marines and had completed a couple open water swims, but I still had to learn to cycle and get swim lessons. Fortunately my good friend Chris is an accomplished cyclist and was able to teach me the basics of riding a road bike. I also am lucky to live within a couple miles of the Walnut Creek Masters swim club. Despite being a team for Olympians (yeah, THE Olympics) and age-group world champions, coach Kerry O’Brien and his staff were kind enough to show me how to go from low-speed/high-drag to something that more or less resembled swimming. I began my training for the Ironman 70.3 Vineman in March and quickly found that running, biking, and swimming gave me an outlet for so much of the pain, anxiety and sadness I felt from my second tour in Iraq. So powerful that during one run I felt as if many of my late friends were running beside me. I felt good. Suddenly I could see bright colors where before was mostly dull and gray.
Racing took on a new meaning that day. I decided it would be a way to heal and to honor my friends as well as to let their families know their sons had not been forgotten. I ordered a custom triathlon suit with help from a GoFundMe account and it came out great. As things progressed, I noticed I had so many things to be grateful for that were all around me: my wife, my daughter, family, friends, a place to live and a job……..
Before racing the half-iron distance, I completed both a sprint and olympic-distance triathlon to get accustomed to the many moving parts of a triathlon. It also helped me to modify what I was using as fuel and to field-test equipment.
Racing the Vineman 70.3 itself was both cathartic and empowering. It was the first time I had stuck to a training plan and it paid off. Crossing the finish line to a cheering crowd and seeing my family and friends was unforgettable (more to come on the race day experience).
I immediately decided to sign up for two more races for 2016 and as of Tuesday I am entered to race in both the Ironman 70.3 California (April 2nd) and the Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz (September 11th). Training starts on Monday!