Let me begin with the end. First,
living is all about the journey, not the destination. Second,
I’m athletic, not an athlete.
This whole Ironman chapter began while I was on the Big Island
of Hawaii for a food festival event. Ross Wilson, the Director
of Marketing for the festival, suggested that I participate in
the renowned Ironman competition as a ‘special invitee.’
He explained that each year, there are about 1,500 competitors
plus a number of novices who are invited to participate for their
media appeal or because they represent a special cause.
I was flattered by the offer but the idea was just out of my
mental grasp. Swim 2.4 miles? Bike 112 miles?? Then run 26 miles…all
in one day?? I’m usually up for any challenge, but this
one was daunting to say the least. Still, I told him I would consider
Now in order for you to get the biggest laugh from this suggestion,
you should know a little Famie history. My nickname in junior
high was ‘fatman.’ I would have preferred ‘thickman,’
but junior high can be a cruel place sometimes.
Sure, eventually, I thinned out a bit. But my love affair with
food always kept me on the husky side. Husky sounds nicer than
fat slug, right?
Everything changed in my early thirties after a long look in
the mirror and one of those brief moments of clarity. The result
was I started working out, eating better, and eliminating the
unnecessary foods I would eat on a whim in the kitchen. I began
eating salmon four to five nights a week or just a salad. Interestingly,
I began changing my cooking style as well.
As my diet improved, my total body fat went from near 30% to
under 20%. More importantly, I could run a mile on a very good
day. But the idea of running 26 miles was still out of the question.
I couldn’t imagine 26 miles alone with myself.
The Food Festival ended and I headed back to the mainland. My
deadline to get the application in for Ironman was April 15th.
Well, April 15th came and went and I just couldn’t find
a reason to get motivated and start training. I talked about it
a lot but actually did nothing. My friends and family thought
I was out of my mind. Over and over people would tell me that
it takes a year to train for something like Ironman. It just seemed
So regrettably, I contacted my friend Ross on the Big Island
and bowed out of the competition as gracefully as I could, my
tail planted firmly between my legs.
My inspiration to compete didn’t come until June and it
came in the form of a 10-year-old boy named Adam Rose. I met Adam
through my affiliation with the Rainbow Connection, a Michigan-based
charity that grants wishes for children with life-threatening
illnesses. Put simply, we clicked, Adam and me.
When he was four, Adam was diagnosed with leukemia. Unfortunately,
as a result of his chemotherapy, he became partially paralyzed
and wheelchair bound.
From that point on, I began to look at life and opportunities
in a whole new light. Adam’s spirit and his determination
became a part of me. If someone like this boy, who has overcome
so many obstacles already in his short life, can maintain such
a drive and enthusiasm, then someone like me can certainly compete
I e-mailed Adam’s mom and his dad, chatted with them on
the phone and learned a great deal more about Adam. (See Adam’s
story in the link above) I also learned a lot about Team In Training,
a division of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Michigan.
Team in Training recruits everyday people to participate in running,
swimming and biking events in order to raise money through pledges.
Well, this hit me like a ton of tomatoes and everything came together.
I had my inspiration, my motivation, a vision – call it
what you want. I was going to do Ironman for Adam and for the
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
I contacted the Team in Training Director who embraced the idea
wholeheartedly. I promptly called Ironman officials in Hawaii
and pleaded with them to let me in even though I had passed the
entrance deadline by a couple of months. They agreed with one
condition: that I had to compete and complete a “half Ironman”
consisting of a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike and 13-mile run before
You can’t imagine the response I got from anyone I told
-- and I told very few in the beginning. Talk about no support.
Luckily, I had my kids, Josh and Alicia. Their attitude was simply
‘you can do it, Dad.’
My philosophy is that we have opportunities to participate in
some pretty exciting things in life. But it’s up to us.
We can sit back and say we can’t, or we can step up and
say we can. And if what we do can help those who are never given
even the opportunity to make that choice, then that’s the
best scenario of all.
So here I am. I’m standing at the foot of the Ironman competition.
I have a fear that I won’t finish. I keep it well covered.
But luckily, I have hopes that far outshine the fears. And my
greatest hope is that my journey might inspire others to step
out of their comfort zone, attempt what seems like the impossible
and do it for those who cannot do for themselves. Become a doer
and make a difference to someone -- even if it’s a small
difference. If nothing else, it makes the journey more fulfilling.
And isn’t that what life is all about?