For the past year or so I have been helping out my younger sister's best friend's younger brother, Jon, prepare for Ironman Lake Placid. Jon was diagnosed with Chron's Disease when he was just a kid and really struggled to get the disease under control as a youth. Over the years he became really interested in fitness and nutrition and will soon graduate from SUNY Cortland with a degree in nutrition and physiology (or something close to that). Anyway, just over a year ago I received an e-mail from him on Facebook asking me about Ironman Lake Placid and telling me he was thinking about signing up for the race.
I had warned Jon about the time commitment training for an Ironman takes and that the Ironman won't go anywhere but you're only in college for a finite period of time. He was fully prepared for the commitment and seemed hell bent on crossing the finish line so I told him I'd help with whatever he needed during his preparation for the race. With that he drove up to IMLP last year to sign up for the long journey to the starting line.
Over the course of the year Jon prepared for the race all on his own. From training to nutrition he read books, found outlets online and asked questions to develop his own training plan and nutrition protocol. I was a bit worried when he told me his main source of nutrition on the bike would be Fig Newtons, but hey if it worked for Dave Scott in the 80s' I guess it was "ok" to break out the history books and try it again. We went on a couple rides together, I talked to him about cadence, gave him a set of my old clip on aero bars and discussed how the Ironman is way more mental than physical.
Leading up to the race we continued to exchange e-mails, he told me about sleeping on an air mattress in his friend's apartment on weekends because there were too many parties on his floor, asked me what the worst long training ride I went on was, and picked my brain about running form and things like that. All in all I think I was just a resource for him not to feel like he was the only person who had thought "what the hell did I get myself into."
Knowing how much work he had put into the race there was no way I was going to miss cheering Jon on at IMLP this year. The Friday before the race I sent some text messages to people who were going to be at the race to see if I could find some floor space to crash on. Of course Jon's sister came through and away I was from my parent's house to Lake Placid to watch the race as spectator for the second time.
Heading into the race I was worried for Jon. Like I said he had the 1984 nutrition plan and he had only done two sprint triathlons prior to the big day. I knew he would cross the finish line but wondered if the Fig Newtons would give him the energy needed to perform well. Holly Cow did he SHOCK ME!!!!
Although he had won his age group in his last sprint triathlon I never expected him to lay down a 12:31 FOR HIS FIRST IRONMAN!!!!!! On a training plan all his own, dealing with the stresses and weird schedules of college life, on a nutrition plan to fit a college budget Jon freaking crushed the Ironman Lake Placid course; 12:31 is a great time for any Ironman, but freaking incredible for a first one! Congratulations Jon, you've come a really long way since you started to win your fight against Crohn's disease! I'm incredibly honored that you let me be a small part of your journey to the finish line - you are an Ironman!