My journey to the finish line


Most of you don’t know me.

I’m the new sports guy at the paper. I’m a graduate of The Ohio State University. I’m an avid sports fan who loves organized sports and Hawaiian Pizza. Most of you still don’t know me.

I hope that changes.

Life is full of journeys, and this story is about two journeys: my journey to the great city of Wapakoneta and my journey to running a triathlon.

Let’s start with my journey to Wapakoneta.

I began looking at colleges several years ago with much of my life undecided. I had two specific, but drastically different career aspirations.

I either wanted to be a sports journalist or a rocket scientist.

Needless to say I’m not designing lunar landing modules or calibrating geosynchronous satellites.

When I got to college, it took about two months to realize that rocket science was not my thing. Sure the money would have been nice, but it was not worth my happiness. How many people can say they love their job? I can.

I am honored and blessed to be where I am today, writing for the Wapakoneta Daily News, sharing the news of athletic accomplishments to the great people of this city.

Now my other journey.

Through my life, there has been one underlying struggle that has burdened me. One personal, self-inflicted struggle I call “Fat Thomas.”

Basically, I’m not a small guy.

People have called me deceptively athletic. I’m not blaming anyone for being overweight but myself, but my weight problem held me back. It was my struggle, and the last nine months have been the battle of my lifetime.

I stepped on the scale on Christmas 2011 and was horrified at what I saw. I was 6-foot-1, 270 pounds.

The reason I’m not ashamed to say that today? Nine months later, as I stand on the scale right now, it reads 205 pounds.

Christmas 2011 was the funeral of “Fat Thomas.”

Through various lifestyle changes — eating healthy and working out — I was able to lose 65 pounds. Those 65 pounds were honestly a health risk and a burden that is 100 percent in my past.

Around June 2012, I was happy with my progress, I was lighter and in better shape, but I desired for a goal to epitomize it all. I mentioned earlier that I love organized sports, but I hate working out. Running for the sake of running, in my opinion, is stupid.

A friend encouraged me to sign up for a triathlon: swimming 750 yards, biking 21 miles and running 3.5 miles.

It sounded like a death wish.

I started running with my girlfriend, mostly to spend more time with her, but a lot because this was a journey that wasn’t going to be easy, and it was something I needed to do.

I started swimming at the Wapakoneta Family  YMCA; lap after lap, mile after mile, trying to get in shape for an endurance competition like a triathlon. I found myself so determined to do this at one point I was swimming for 2-3 hours per day.

I began shifting toward the other two aspects of the race. I would go to the gym in the YMCA and ride the stationary bike for a long time.

I would head outside, and through the streets of Wapakoneta, run for miles. Sweating, my legs screaming with pain, I pushed toward that goal.

My girlfriend is a marathon runner who is probably laughing about a 3.5 run, one that she can do in her sleep.

A summer of training culminated last Sunday at the University of Dayton Triathlon.

I rented a road bike from Cranker’s Cycling in Wapakoneta, and headed to Waynesville for the race of my life. For the culmination of my journey.

I had three goals that day.

1. Finish the race: I was fairly confident I would be able to finish, I had put a lot of work into everything. “Fat Thomas” wanted to hold me back, but he was in my past, he was not going to stop me.

2. Never stop trying: I wasn’t going to stop swimming, I didn’t want to stop on the 21-mile ride. I didn’t want to walk during the run. If I was going to do this, I was going to do it right. If it killed me, I was going to persevere.

3. Don’t come in last: I didn’t know going into the race how the competition would be, and the competitive side of me was not going to let me down. Much of this is a personal journey, but let’s be honest. I didn’t want to come in last.

I sit here today with sore feet, an aching back and my quad muscles feel like they’ve been set on fire. But I sit here today as someone who completed his goals.

When I stepped on that scale in December 2011, I didn’t know where my finish line was. When I crossed that finish line on Sunday, on the verge of tears, I knew I had found it.

I’m not writing this to brag. You can check the results online, I really have no room to brag. Although I didn’t come in last, I only beat six people out of 120. But I tell this story to inspire. No matter how outrageous a goal may be, if you set your mind to something, you too can overcome your “Fat Thomas.”

I still have a long way to go. I’m still slightly overweight. There is another finish line in my future, and much like that day in December, I don’t know where that finish line will be.

So I hope you know a little bit more about me and where I come from. You can chat me up about sports, we can split a slice of pizza or you can give me an energetic “Go Bucks!”

But as you get to know me, when you meet me, the thing I’m most thankful for is you won’t be shaking hands with “Fat Thomas.”