American Dispatch: A Regular Guy Takes On A Triathlon

By FOX News Radio’s Willie Sanchez, who competed in the 2012 New York City Triathlon

About a year and a half ago, I realized that I could wear my pants without a belt. Meaning, the pants were tight around my waistline, and they were not in danger of falling on their own. There was no wiggle room. So, I signed up for the NYC Triathlon when the opportunity presented itself a few days after my revelation.

I’m not a person who can just say “I need to lose weight. I’m going to the gym.” I don’t like the gym. I don’t like running. I don’t like lifting weights. I like bike riding. But, that alone is not going to get me to my goal weight. I weighed 193 pounds when I signed up for the triathlon and I’m 6’ 2”. Not bad, right? Wrong, it wasn’t muscle weight. It was skinny fat. You know, hidden in all the right places so that everyone thinks you’re skinny enough. Everyone thought I was crazy. However, I was just not happy with the tight pants. I didn’t like the idea of just “going on a diet” or just “going to the gym” just to lose weight. I needed a bigger challenge.

Fast forward a bit and I made it through three sprint triathlons (300m swim, 12 mile bike, 3.2 mile run) and the 2011 NYC Triathlon (1 mile swim, 25 mile bike, 6 mile run). My NYC Triathlon time last year was 3 hours and 16 minutes. I lost 20 pounds. Not too flabby. Whoops. I mean, shabby.

It was time to sign up for the 2012 NYC Triathlon and I decided I was going to do it again. I know I can do it!

I felt better during my swim down the dirty, filthy Hudson River. However, it was much dirtier this year. Dead fish, planks of wood with nails, branches, logs, and who knows what else lined the river that morning. The guards tried their best to clear the most hazardous material, but they didn’t have enough time to clear it all out. Back to me… I felt good during the swim, certainly not as tired as I remember being last year. Maybe that’s why I posted a slower time than last year by two minutes. Hmph. In the sport of triathlons that is not good. You’re supposed to get faster!?!

Ok, out of the swim and into the transition area known as T1. I put on my socks, cycling jersey, helmet and shoes. Out on to the course I went.

Here is a little geeky tech sidebar. I always run and ride with a GPS watch, heart strap, and speed sensors on my bike. This year I also added a GPS beacon type app to my iPhone so that my family and friends can track me on the course in REAL TIME! They could watch me on the map instead of wondering if every single racer coming by was me or not. When they saw I was close enough they would look up and start cheering me on!

Ok, back to the action…

During the bike ride up the West Side Highway towards the Bronx my legs felt tired. It was rolling hills, but mostly leading up to an elevation gain. That really took a lot of energy out of me, and I wanted to save my legs for the run. On the way back from the turn-around it was mostly downhill with a few rolling hills mixed. Returning to the transition area, they play a cruel little joke on you as you have to ride passed the transition area for 20 blocks and then back up. Mentally you think you’re done as you get there, but then you have to keep going. UGH!

Off the bike and on to the run. I decided to change from ankle socks to knee-high compression socks. They are not the most attractive things in the world. However, the feeling of blood rushing out of my calves and back into my body felt GREAT! I felt like it gave me a boost of energy. I should have worn them during my bike ride. Anyway, I worked my way out of the gate and towards my cheering squad. I love the sound the cowbells, whistles, and boom sticks make. I got such a boost of energy at that moment and smiled for everyone. Sort of the “I’m hurting like hell, but I’m going to grin and bear it so you can take some good photos of me” face.

See what I mean?

The run course through Central Park is rolling hills all the way to the finish line. I made it through with a sort of run, “oh my legs are going to cramp”, walk, run, “oh my legs are going to cramp”, walk routine. (Not the best for setting personal records.) I saved some energy so I could run across the finish line with that “I’m hurting like hell, but I’m going to…” you get the picture.

High Five! Smile! Fist pumps! Ice-cold towel around my neck. Find a bench. Massage legs. Slump over in relief. It’s over!

I finished nine minutes slower overall. I quit the sport of triathlon, again. At least until the next sprint triathlon in August. Then, I’ll quit again until the sign-up for the 2013 NYC Triathlon. Welcome to the life of an amateur triathlete. It takes a lot of time to train for something like this. I probably should have trained more than I did, but ultimately I always just want to finish. In one piece.

WATCH Willie Sanchez cross the finish line.