From Teacher to Triathlete: A Story of Accomplishment

I love having this blog as an outlet to share what I’ve learned about food as healing, nourishment and energy as well as how to live a full and vibrant life.

I’m excited to share today’s post about my husband Bill (yes, the guy who voluntarily eats all this “weird food” with me :)). He knows that fueling his body with nourishing food gives him the energy and stamina to perform at his best, especially athletically.

Back in January, Bill and I continued our annual tradition of going to a New Year’s Day brunch, recapping all of the great things that happened in the previous year and talking about the year to come.

Rather than focusing on an uninspired checklist of “things to do,” we focused on how we wanted to FEEL. Using Danielle LaPorte’s book, The Desire Map, as a guide, each of us identified how we wanted to feel in 2015.

My words were Radiant, Flowing, Clarity, Connected, and Worthy. I wrote about why I chose them in this post.

Bill’s words and core desired feelings were:

bill's words

As an elementary school phys ed teacher, he has a purpose-driven yet “thankless” job. No matter how good they are, teachers are rarely given the appreciation, recognition, and gratitude they deserve. They’re in it because they love kids and want to help them grow and learn.

At the end of many school days, they can feel tired, frustrated and anything but motivated or accomplished.

Not only that, but since graduating from college, where he was a four-year athlete and played saxophone in the jazz band, he hasn’t had many opportunities to pursue things that made him feel energized, motivated or accomplished.

Bill said one of the things he wanted to do this year was to train for and complete a triathlon and that doing so would give him the core feelings he desired.

He was inspired and guided by the example of my dad, who is nearly 65-years-young and a 5-time Ironman triathlete; my 21-year-old sister, Jane, who has completed two Ironman triathlons; and my mom, who learned to swim in her 50s and has since completed several triathlons herself.

Volunteering along the Ironman 2014 bike route and then smiling with the finishers later that night!

Volunteering along the Ironman 2014 bike route and then smiling with the finishers later that night!

He signed up for the Columbia Triathlon – an Olympic distance race that starts with a 1.5k  swim (.93 miles), followed by a grueling 40k (24.8 miles) bike through hilly neighborhoods, and finished off by a 10k (6.2-mile) run.

His training began in March, and he diligently followed a daily workout regimen that included a combination of swimming, biking and running, sometimes requiring him to wake up at 5:00 a.m. before a long school day to train.

He spent Saturday mornings at Loyola University’s pool with my dad learning a new, more efficient and energy-conserving swimming technique called Total Immersion.

Bill’s first time on the road on his racing bike was less than six weeks ago.

My husband is a quick learner, especially when it comes to anything kinesthetic and athletic.

He can pick up on new sports or athletic moves faster than just about anyone I know, so I didn’t doubt that he could finish the race.

But this was the first time he would be fully responsible for his training, accountable to himself, and motivated not by his teammates, as has always been the case, but by his own desire to feel energized, motivated and accomplished.

I saw his mental toughness years ago when we first started dating, and he had torn his Achilles tendon.

bill boot

Bill at the top of Little Whiteface near Lake Placid. We had to take the gondola up because he was recovering from a torn Achilles tendon and was confined to a boot.

Told by doctors that he might never play soccer again – devastating news for a lifetime athlete – he was back on the soccer field within six months, determined to beat the odds.

He had trained diligently in a physical sense, but I also knew he’d have the mental toughness to do what it takes to complete a triathlon.

The night before the race, Bill couldn’t sleep and was up by 4:00 a.m. on race day, eager to begin.

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We were greeted by a humid and overcast morning and a forecast calling for a chance of rain – not exactly ideal weather conditions for a triathlon.

He and my dad headed to the race around 5:30, and my mom, sister, I and our friend, Tim, met them there shortly thereafter.

The triathlete community has a special energy about it.

These people are alive.

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Making my way through the “buzz” and sea of energy, I found Bill, who appeared calm but ready to go, and my dad, who was his usual energetic self, ready to embark on yet another triathlon.

At the age of 65, he wasn’t even the oldest competitor, with nearly 10 people filling the bracket above him in the 70-74 age group.

Our friend, Tim joined us at the start, as the athletes lined up to enter the water.

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Because of the narrow entry point, the swimmers were grouped in pairs and entered the water by age group, with Bill’s group being one of the last.

He had to patiently wait nearly an hour to start after being revved up since 4:00 a.m.

We cheered him on as he finally entered the water just before 8:00 a.m.

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As we made our way over to the swim/bike transition area, we were joined by my sister, Jane, and arrived just as my dad, who started the race in one of the first waves, was coming out of the water and making his way to the bike.

We shouted and cheered as we saw Bill emerge from the water around 8:30.

We would later come to find out that a kayaker, who was pulling another swimmer out of the water, ran into Bill and rattled him a bit, but he continued on despite the distraction.

bill transition

He looked like he was a veteran at this, as he entered the swim/bike transition area and hurried up the hill to begin the 25-mile bike ride on what were now rain-slicked roads.

His parents and sister came down from Harrisburg and joined us as we waited for the athletes to come down the steep bend on their bikes before embarking on the last leg of the race.

We saw my dad come through and waiting with anticipation to see Bill’s red bike.

bill pic

When we finally saw him, we were thrilled!

He’d finished the first two legs and had what came most naturally to him as the final one – running.

The rain had given way to a hot and humid Baltimore day, and headed to the finish line to wait for my dad and Bill to make their final push.

Both finished strong and were smiling as they made their way down the final tunnel to claim their hard-earned medals.

finish line

Bill and my dad smiling after their finish

Bill and my dad smiling after their finish

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Bill and dad and their fan club!

Bill and dad and their fan club!

This summer, when we go to Upstate New York for our annual family vacation, Bill will be going with my dad to sign up for his first Ironman triathlon in Lake Placid for 2016.

That’s a 2.4 mile swim, a 112-mile bike and a marathon (26.2 miles). (Yes, people who do this race are the slightest bit crazy…and a different breed of human, but MAN are they fun to watch!).

We’ll all be there on the sidelines cheering him on as he moves another step closer to feeling energized, motivated and accomplished.

I wonder what his words will be when we have our New Year’s pow wow in January of next year.

Maybe these words will be on his mind, just as they’re on the wall of my dad’s office:

Some day you will not be able to do this. Today is not that day.

dad finish

My dad crossing the finish line at one of his 5 Ironman triathlons. Bill will soon be joining him!

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10 Comments

  1. Cristina

    LOVE this quote!! Might make the new gym wall here 🙂 Congrats to Bill on his major accomplishment!

    • Isn’t it great?! I love that idea! My dad has had it on his wall for years. Considering he’ll be 66 next year when he embarks on Ironman #6 in 2016 (whoa crazy numbers!), he’s proven to me that age is just a number!

  2. Susan Druckenmiller

    Enjoyed reading about Bills adventure! It’s nice that so many family members were there to support him too. Go Bill!

    • I’m glad! It was great that we could be there to support him! I have a feeling this is the first of many triathlons for him 🙂

  3. Nancy Bryant

    Oh honey! This was done so well. It is so exciting to have another family member join the triathlon club. Soon we will be big enough to have a name! You’ll be next…year as we consider doing a relay–you, me and Jane. It would be a blast! Go Bryants and Druckenmillers!

    • Thanks!! It’s so cool seeing you do all these things, too, and continue to challenge yourself. It inspires me!

  4. Kim Teter

    Jon mentioned that Bill contacted him about Lake Placid. Good for him!! Triathlon, especially IRONMAN, is a whole new beast!! Beware the amount of food he will start eating when training begins. Jon is a Veggie IRONMAN and that was/is not fun figuring out!

    • Rachel Druckenmiller

      Yes! He is now gearing up for his first Half Ironman this weekend in Raleigh. Should be an exciting race! We are looking forward to Lake Placid in July!

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