By Matt Lieto | Ironman
Most of you know me as a goofy, “moderately” entertaining commentator and sometimes-fast professional triathlete. Many of you don’t know how I got to this point, though.
My first exposure to triathlon was in 1998 when I traveled to Kona to support my big brother, Chris (you might know him as the 2009 runner up at the Ironman World Championship).
Chris had done a few triathlons, but had never done an Ironman, and I wanted to witness this awe-inspiring accomplishment. If swimming, biking and running all in one day wasn’t enough, these people were going to total over 140 miles.
You might think I was always athletic and that just witnessing an Ironman shouldn’t have been so mind-boggling.
Well, on that race day in 1998, this was me:
Yes. That’s me. On the right. In pink. To answer the question in your head, 250 lbs. It’s a less-than-flattering picture, I know.
Needless to say, it was a turning point in my life. I was dying, just walking 1.5 miles to the expo to get free candy bars. Around me people were smiling (like the year’s champion Natascha Badmann) through 140.6 miles.
Seriously? I volunteered at mile 20 of the run and was soon relieved from water duty because I just couldn’t keep up with the leaders as they went by.
“Water, water!” they yelled. Sorry, fellas.
Chris crossed the finish line, in his usual over-achieving way, far ahead of where a first-time Ironman finisher should. He was hooked and I was, too. I just didn’t know it yet.
I went home and quickly began changing my diet and my lifestyle as much as I could. An Ironman still seemed out of reach, but it was the energy and the lifestyle that I wanted. I became more active, ate better food at the right time of day, and hydrated throughout the day.
IronmanI lost 80 pounds in five months. Yes, I know, crazy. Soon after the weight loss, I did my first triathlon and I was hooked.
It was not just the race that attracted me. It was also the goal-setting, and achieving those goals, that had me toe the line.
Over the next years I continued to set goals and work my butt off to achieve them. This process eventually led me to become a professional and I was lucky enough to race in Kona, the place where my transformation began, alongside my inspiration in sport: big brother Chris.
Ironman has changed my life. I never imagined I could compete in this sport, let alone be involved to the extent that I am. In the end, all I had to do was believe, put some good work behind that belief, and the goals became accomplishments.
I want to do my best this year to be a voice you can count on for perspective. Not only as a pro, but as someone who has been right where you are — nervous, intimidated, and with a long way to go. And a long, fun road ahead.
(IronmanLive host Matt Lieto finished third at Ironman 70.3 Hawaii in 2010 and 2011 and, in 2009, was fifth at Ironman Lake Placid.)
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