At the end of September Leslie Zacks, CURE Childhood Cancer‘s Vice President of the Board of Directors, participated in the Augusta Half-Ironman Triathlon. Inspired by Patrick, a young boy who lost his five and a half year battle with Neurobslatoma, Leslie participated in order raise money for the families affected by childhood cancer.
He was able to raise over $12,000 for CURE and has shared with us about the experience. Trust me, you will want to read what Leslie had to say.
Three years. Apparently that’s how long it takes to forget excruciating pain. At least for me. Three years ago to the date, I competed in the Augusta Half-Ironman Triathlon. That’s a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride followed by a 13.1-mile “run.” In 2009, I tried my best but suffered mightily and looked like a sleepwalking zombie as I crossed the finish line in 5 hours 44 minutes.
This past weekend, I touched the hot stove again and competed in the same triathlon. The race is chock full of elite triathletes from far flung places trying to qualify for “Worlds,” which I presume is a race at Epcot because I will never see a World Championship without a remote control in my hand. I did my best to fit in with these elites and that was not an easy act for a balding, 44-year old father of 3 who eats dessert, doesn’t shave his legs, and doesn’t ride a bike that costs more than his car. Thanks to my selfless wife and family, however, I did train hard. In fact, in 80 days of rigorous training:
- I rode my bike 1,003 miles
- I ran 197 miles
- I swam 46 miles
- I burned over 75,000 calories during training and 3,627 during the race
- And after all that, I lost a whopping 2 lbs! (Thanks mom and dad for the genes of a three-toed sloth.)
I entered the race with 2 goals: (i) to raise as much money as possible for CURE Childhood Cancer; and (ii) to beat my time from 2009. I am happy to report that I painfully accomplished both goals.
First and foremost, I cannot thank you enough. If you are receiving this e-mail, then you donated to my cause, inspired me, coached me, trained with me and generally kept me moving forward over the past few months. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Swim. The day before the race I played in a golf tournament. There, I met a woman who looked at me like I had 5 heads when she heard I was racing. “You’re gonna swim in the Savannah River? Do you know what they found in there?” I interrupt and respectfully asked her to hold her thought until I was in the next county. Her comment seemed to inspire me because I swam like a scorched salmon.
Bike. Despite a few ambulance sightings and near misses, I rode swiftly and comfortably… until the first cramp. I stretched my calves at mile 50 and my right quad seized up as if it had been electrocuted. It would never recover. I would consume electrolyte tablets as if they were crack. Unfortunately it was too late. My fate had been sealed because I had not taken in enough fluids during the early miles of the bike. I had followed my training plan but it was quite humid on race day and I clearly needed more liquids.
Run. For the next hour and 58 minutes, I would resemble Frankenstein trying to take his first steps, with a piano on his back. I limped, hopped and shuffled. Thankfully Augusta is a very genteel Southern city. Instead of telling me to “hustle” or “finish strong,” spectators would say “Bless his heart” or “What’s wrong with him Mommy”?
I was in pain. I questioned whether I could do this. I questioned whether I could finish. The next few hours of my meaningless race were in doubt and there was nothing I could do but quit or choose a painful course. At that very moment, my mind drifted to Patrick, Brennan, Flynn, Jordan, Julia, Trenton, Hayley and so many other beautiful children who have endured so much worse. I thought about their loving families and the difficult and painful decisions they had to make. My pain subsided a bit and is replaced with a profound sense of determination to continue doing everything in my power to PressOn.
I gut out a 9-minute mile pace over the half-marathon and finish. When I arrived at the finish line, let’s just say that the elite triathletes had already finished, talked about Worlds or whatever they talk about after a race and then vanished.
In the end, I wasn’t the best but I wasn’t the worst either. I had accomplished my goals. I raised over $12,000 for CURE and I beat my 2009 time by over 17 minutes, finishing with a time of 5:27 which put me in the top 30% of the 3,400 racers. Sure, I’m walking like the Tin-Man right now, but it’s worth it.
Again, I cannot thank you enough for all you do and don’t be surprised if you get another request to donate to my triathlon efforts. It’ll likely be in about 3 years.