In 1975 my mom was given a surprise when I was born, a happy bouncing ten pound giant with clubbed feet. My mom will tell you that the surprise brought many months of stress, doctor appointments, surgeries and follow ups over the next few years, not to mention the endless supply of “high top” shoes the doctor recommended I wear for the rest of my life. The doctors did warn her with certainty that I would struggle with pain and discomfort for the rest of my life. And they were right, not a day goes by that I do not feel a significant amount of pain at the end of the day. The best way to describe it is as if a boa constrictor is squeezing the life out of my calves and ankles while one thousand bees are stinging the bottom of my feet and toes. But to be honest with you, I bring in it on myself. I am an endurance athlete living and training with a deformity that was corrected when I was a one year old. In my opinion “corrected” means that my feet look somewhat normal but they do not function the way a normal person's would. I spent many years using this as an excuse not to do anything active. When you choose not to be active, drink too much beer, and eat Mexican food until your stomach feels like it’s going to explode, the end result usually involves wondering why a size forty pair of pants feels “snug”. At 5’8" and two hundred sixty pounds, I had a sudden epiphany one morning while standing on the scale. Wow, I am freaking fat. My daughter was just born and I thought this can’t be good. My longest run at that time was five minutes of pure hell. It felt like someone was sawing my feet off at the ankles. Never again I thought, I am going to do this. After all, the doctors said I should never be doing anything physical. That was my excuse, the doctors said I can’t. So needless to say, I went on a starvation diet and lost a few pounds but felt worse than I did at my heaviest.
I started to do some research and read a lot about how to lose weight. You know that whole dilemma eat more to lose weight. I started gaining muscle with more calories and spent time lifting weights. Over time I looked good and lost more than eighty pounds, but never felt in shape. I did not have any cardiovascular endurance. I never ran, rode my bike or did any type of cardio that required time on my feet. I started to run slowly at short distances and soon began to feel healthier. I started to feel like I might actually like to run. However, I just could not deal with the pain radiating from my feet after a run. But I knew I was on to something , and it was bringing me joy. My wife challenged me to my first triathlon three years ago and I thought. Okay, I will try, but, I just might die in the process. Its simple. Right? A half mile swim, nine mile bike, and a two mile run. Not a problem. I can do it.
I figured I needed to start training for this event. So I set out not knowing what the hell I was doing, but I kept the mantra going… What if I die, what if I drowned, what if I have a heart attack or fall of my bike and have to be airlifted to the nearest emergency room. Great way to start training right? I set a simple goal to run here and there , “doggy paddle” in the pool a couple yards a week, and ride my bike now and then. I did this for a few weeks and felt that I was ready to take on my first triathlon. I finished. I finished. I finished! I suffered through the pain of my feet. I walked most of the two miles and thought I was being abducted by alien doing cruel experiments on my feet. I finished and I was proud. I was proud that I did something the doctors said I could not do. I did something that most people won’t do and I did something that most people with clubbed feet have not done. I was tired, sore, delusional and swollen but I was hooked. Triathlon has changed my life and outlook on my disability. I have learned many things about myself and the process of becoming a better person and athlete. Most importantly though is that I have learned to be a good example for my son who was born a fellow clubbed footer.