If You Never Tri, You'll Never Know!

There Is No Finish Line


I am a confident Coach. I feel very lucky to have found a niche in life and I feel like as I gain more experience, I get better and better at my job (I use job lightly because this is also my passion, my world, the breath in my life).
My athletes help me see this every single day, with every single successful training session, and with each goal crushed. Jason Clayton recently became an athlete under my guidance and his fire, his determination, and now his story warms my heart, lights me up, and damn, I'm just so impressed.
He has agreed to allow me to share his story; prepare to be inspired!!...

Augusta 70.3 Ironman After Action Review
by Jason Clayton

“A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.” — John A. Shedd

August 24, 2017, Augusta, Georgia: I realized that I was capable of so much more than I had ever given myself credit for...and I also realized that I have a long way to go to get where I want to be.

First of all the only thing that felt better than crossing that finish line was knowing that there is no finish line. As tough as the race was, I know I was built for more. As awesome as it was...it was a stepping stone to where I want to be. I'm not done yet.

I can't tell you how I felt when I turned the corner to run in to the finish line and saw Brantley Ellison and his family cheering me on. This man has been beside me on my fitness journey since day one. It got better when I crossed the finish line and my wife Raegan Stanley Clayton was there waiting on me. Thank you for putting up with me and all that I have had to do to get ready for this. I know it hasn't been easy. I love you.

I do need to give some shout outs.

Brantley Ellison, we were slamming tequila shots at the Yates Christmas Party many years ago and we were both fat as hell. The next time I saw him was when I signed up for B.E. Fit #2 in 2014. He had gotten himself in shape and was helping others do the same thing. 8 weeks from that day, June 9, 2014, I had lost 42 lbs at 41 years old. By the end of the year, 100 lbs. He believed in me when I didn't believe in myself. He would motivate me, help me, whatever it took, as long as I kept showing up for bootcamp. There is so much more to that story leading up to this but in November 2016 I told him I was thinking about doing a Half Ironman because I was going to have hand surgery and wouldn't be able to lift weights, GORUCK, Spartan Races, etc until it healed but I felt like I could run and bike...and maybe swim.

The 1st words that came out of his mouth were, "I'll do it with you!" My 44th birthday was on December 1st and my wife gave me my present: Ironman 70.3 Augusta 2017 Registration.
I'm going back to B.E. Fit in October to drop 20 to 30 lbs. 8 weeks of work will produce the results I want and need. There is no better place for weight loss. There are so many other people just like me that have had success there. Brantley Ellison, Thank You. Thanks for all you do; not only for me, but for everyone you help. You make a difference in our lives that no one could ever adequately repay you for. We still have work to do brother. There are bigger things that need us crushing them. #BEFIT4LIFE

Lisa Johnson - I didn't really know Lisa other than at Run-N-Tri Company, but I knew she was a coach/trainer with many Ironman races, both full and half, under her belt. I had considered a Half Ironman in 2014 after I lost a lot of weight but took a different route after my 1st Spartan race and ended up doing over 40 of them and other branded OCR races all over the country and in Canada in 2015 and 2016. I never got the idea of an Ironman event out of my head but I kept it at bay because I was enjoying OCR so much.

Things happen as they do and I noticed I had been tagged in a Facebook post in November of 2016 and read it and Jillian Dittmann had tagged me in a post about Lisa's hard drive in her Mac being crashed and wanted to know if I could fix it. I wasn't sure at first (that's a lie; I was pretty sure I could fix it! Ha!) but anyway, I got the data off. It took 11 days. It moved very slow; the disk was badly damaged internally. 97% of the data recovered and she insisted on paying me back somehow but I don't take money for such things from people. I never have. I just said... "Train me for an Ironman" and she agreed... I told her something else just before that. I told her "I never give up on anything". I didn't know if she heard that part...but I was serious.

I tried giving up in New Orleans July 25, 2015 about 1:30 a.m. but the crew of people I was with didn't let me. Anne Mancheski and some other good folks got me through that shit show but it mentally was one of the most significant things I had ever accomplished. My life had been easy up unto that point. That night all of a sudden it wasn't. I almost quit. but as I like to say, almost doesn't count.

I had surgery on my hand Jan 4, 2017 and I had told Lisa that I would not be able to do anything until mid-march, early April. I got a message on April 2nd asking me if I was ready to start. And then I was training for Ironman 70.3...

I told her that I didn't know anything about this and that I was here to learn and I needed her to tell me what I needed to do and I wouldn't question it. I would simply do it. Whatever it was. And that was the foundation I built with her... my Ironman Coach.

As my dad would say, "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it." Annnndd, I got it... LOL!

25'ish weeks later here I am, an Ironman 70.3 finisher.
Lisa Johnson. Thank you. I am so impressed in how you approached the training, the training itself, and the results.
Not only do you Talk the Talk but you Walk the Walk. The message you sent me the day after the Tour De Burger bike ride built me up and made me believe I can do anything I want to do in this area and I didn't take it lightly. I know people that have completed as many full and half Ironman races as you have don't give those types of compliments and encouragement to just anyone who doesn't deserve it.
There is no better Triathlon Coach. I truly believe that.
We are not done yet. Believe that. I do. #TEAMTOA!

John Collins - The best Swim Coach... period!
I did 2 sprint triathlons over the summer just to get the feel for the events. They both pretty much sucked but I finished them. Would have been great had I known how to swim before hand. But you gotta do what you gotta do right?
I tried to teach myself how to swim on youtube... yeah... dumb I know. The short story is that I almost drown in the Sunfish Tri. I did finish but I was dead last out of the water and I had 12 kayaks behind me waiting for me to go under at any given time. After the race was done I did a review; like this one. John, whom Lisa had suggested, read it and I guess just felt sorry for me lol and he messaged me and simply said, "I can help you. I have a plan." I gladly accepted the help.

We went from him trying to keep me alive in the pool to swimming 1.1 miles in the river in 34 minutes. He worked with all the issues I brought with me both mental and physical and turned me into a swimmer. He not only taught me how to swim but them he trained me how to be a good swimmer; how to deal with things when they happen.
And when I was struggling to breath after a speed set and would be like man, Im dying! He would say, "We are starting again in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, go!" lol and I would go. He knew I wasn't at my limit even though I thought I was. But I got better and better. I swam laps this evening as a relaxation, a wind down. I enjoy it and I will do it the rest of my life. 2.5 months ago I couldn't swim.

Thank you John Collins. And also thank you to your beautiful wife Donna. I could not have done this without your help and hers. Had you not helped me I would have had to found a relay team that needed a bike rider if I wanted to do this event. I'm coming home this weekend and I want to get back in the river and keep this going. I have plans for next year and even into 2019 and being a stronger swimmer is key to those goals. I believe what you messaged me, I just didn't want to chance it. But next time I'll be ready for it.

These 3 people were key in me starting and finishing this.
My buddy Brantley with Brantley Ellison Fitness, my Coach Lisa with Team TOA (Tri Our Adventure) and John's one on one swimming lessons gave me the tools to succeed. There are no better people to help you meet your goals in this area.

I'm mostly blown away by all of the comments and support and messages I have received by so many of my Facebook friends who many are also my real life friends. Each of you motivate me to be better and to keep pushing limits so I can see what's on the other side them. To see how far I can go.

Thank you all for building me up into who I am today. Thank you for helping me believe that I can do "it" what "it" may be. I would never do these things below. This family, the we have grown through motivating each other, supporting each other in our goals, and celebrating victories with each other is amazing and wonderful. If everyone had this kind of support no one could fail at their goals.

My Augusta 70.3 Report:

The Swim - 1.2 miles - .9 degrees too warm for a wetsuit legal race. In this scenario they have a wetsuit optional wave and I joined it. I wore it because even though I can swim very well now, I'm a chicken shit and I opted for the little bit of confidence the wetsuit gave me. My past two tri experiences in open water were bad and I didn't want to make it worse on myself. When I get home I'll be building confidence in the river without it.

The swim was very nice. The current that everyone speaks of in the Savannah River was a joke. It was no better than the river at home. The swim in this event was my favorite part. My time was 35:36. This is about what I expected. This was my longest swim to date. I had done 1.1 miles more than a few times but 1.2 was the longest I have swam to date.

The Bike - 56 miles. Started strong. Passed at least 100 people in the 1st half of the course. This course had way more hills than I am used to and a long stretch of road that was very bumpy. The hills were not significant but there were more than a few of them. I really had no issues with the bike ride but my back started hurting in my injured l5/s1 disc due to the bumps in that stretch of road. There was also A LOT of wind in our faces that slowed me down some. It was frustrating being in the wind well over half of the 56 miles.

At mile 40ish I started cramping in my back and my left foot near the arch  I had drank plenty of fluids and I had been eating but the cramps came anyway. It was HOT! And between mile 40 and 45 I started to let the heat and my cramps make me feel sorry for myself a little. It was not anything major but I was really looking forward to getting done with it so I could move on. I started thinking about those who can't do this. The kids like Avery, Sophia, Shelby, and so many others who face so much more than this in their lives and they keep pushing...so I did too. I dug in and finished the bike. I laid in Transition on my back for what seemed like 20 minutes but it was probably 3 or 4 just to see if the pain would go away. I took some ibuprofen and changed my socks, put my shoes on and then I was on my way to the 13.1 miles between me and the finish line.

The Run - 13.1 miles. Mike Tyson once said "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." Well, the cramps punched me in the mouth so I scrapped Plan A and I started walking rather than running. I had two plans for the run before I even got to the race and Plan B was to walk out of transition and try to get my legs under me to make the best run I could. Running is not something I'm very good at. I am a miserable runner most of the time and this day was no exception. When I haven't rode a bike 56 miles prior I am a better runner but who isn't? So when you are walking you meet others who are also walking and you end up talking to them and when you ware walking and talking and you have plenty of time and you are comfortable and when you are comfortable why mess that up by running?! So I walked more than I should have the 1st loop but I was still hurting but getting better and ultimately I had to leave the guy I was walking with as I wanted to try to move faster. I did pick up the pace some on the 2nd loop but still slower than I had hoped.

My initial goal was to finish the run in 3 hours or less. I had been doing my runs in training and my times were about 5 miles an hour. Sometimes a little more and sometimes a little less but in that range. My cramps had for the most part gone. Pain had been replaced some by on my feet but they were not a major issue (they are today but my feet always get messed up in such things).

Once I realized I wouldn't be under 3 hours I started working a plan to be under 3:30 and overall be under 7:50 hours on the course. I was able to finally run some. Much of what slowed me down was mental. I know this. I did get to a point where I would stop running when noting was wrong or hurting. It was just more comfortable. I could have finished stronger. I left some out there on the course. It is what it is. Ill do better next time.

The course had a 8.5 hour cut off for each participant. MY run time ended up being 3:28 and my overall time was 7:48:23 with 17.4 minutes of that being in transitions in T1 and T2.

One advantage of walking or slow running is that I got the chance to tell a few people about Rett Syndrome and DIPG. They, like most people, had never heard of it. Even saw a sign on lap two that simply said "Just Keep Swimming" I stopped and gave her a hug.

I did not complete an "Ironman" I completed an Ironman 70.3, also known as a Half Ironman. There is a real distinction between the two. An "Ironman" or a "Full Ironman" is 140.6 miles. Twice what I did this weekend.
But as I mentioned before. I'm not done yet. I have work to do to get there but my goal is to do the 140.6 Ironman. I have a lot of work to do but I'll put in the work.

Your goals should scare you. If they don't you are going too easy on yourself. Not meeting your full potential. The quote I started this post with is one that I love. We were all built for more than what most of will ever attempt  Let's stop selling ourselves short and pushing ourselves forward to be better tomorrow than we are today. 1 step at a time.

I'm in Orlando this week trying not to gain any weight at the Microsoft Ignite conference. When I get home we have a 5k Saturday night with Ainsley's Angels. I hope I can run by then (my feet are a mess) but if not then I'll walk it. By Monday I'll be running, biking, and swimming again. I love the training. It's the best thing I have ever done for myself.

The picture is of my 2014 to 2017 journey of bettering myself. You can only see the physical change. You can't see the most significant transformation... It's in my mind and my heart.