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In never thought I would even be in a position to think about doing an Ironman 4 and one-half years and 45 pounds ago. It was my 40th birthday in 2007 when I decided that not only should I advocate good health and fitness but to represent it. After 4 seasons of shorter distance triathlons I decided to compete in St. George Ironman as my first ultra-distance event (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike & 26.2 mile run). I trained steady for a solid 5 months. It was a journey of mind, body and spirit. I enjoyed the challenge of physical and mental endurance. As race day approached my thinking became clearer. I knew what I had to do, not only on that day but also in life as a doctor, as a father, as a person. One of my biggest motivators was to deliver an important message to my children that in life you can do anything that you put your mind to. The day of the race I told my kids that in order to be successful, you must think successful. Create your own destiny. Set your mind to your goals and never stop until you get there. Your mind is the most powerful tool you have. Not only convincing them, but myself, with those words and sentiments I was ready for my first Ironman.
Race morning was perfect. We entered the 63-degree lake water at Sand Hollow Reservoir at 6:45AM. We tread water for 15 minutes before the cannon went off. There was no count down. Before I knew it I was off. I settled into to my stroke as I maneuvered my way into position with the other 1400 competitors. We rounded the first buoy at about 800 yards. Immediately after I made the first left turn it was like I went out of a protected harbor straight to my long range fishing trip 400 miles into Mexico where we get hammered with huge seas. The wind had kicked up to 30 mph with gusts up to 45 mph. I quickly realized that this was now a test of survival. We battled major current, 5-foot swells and white caps. I later found out that several hundred triathletes had to be pulled out of the water due to the conditions. I muscled my way through and didn’t stop swimming until I finally made in to the shore. I was thankful to be on stable ground and happily transitioned to the bike segment. The wind seemed worse once we left the lake area. It didn’t seem like the same day it was an hour before. Due to the 6500 feet of climbing on the bike course, St. George Ironman is considered to be one of the hardest on the circuit. The effect of the head wind only made it more challenging. I realized right away that I had to adjust mentally for a longer day than anticipated. The big wind lasted for 4 hours. As I fought the wind all morning I remembered something that some one told me about Ironman which all made sense at that moment. He said, “The best thing about Ironman, is the story you will be able to tell when it’s over”. I kept thinking about that all day. Once I completed the first bike loop I knew I was in good shape because I had done the same loop in training in a similar time. The wind gusts settled down for the second loop but there was still a constant wind. As I started down the final mile of the bike I looked down to my odometer, 112 miles. Not something I see often. As I approached the transition area there were runners coming up the street. The aid stations were full of palm trees, sprayers, and misters. There was an amazing energy. Cool, I thought to myself, this will not be that bad. I was well aware that many athletes had been running for a nearly a couple hours by now. I got off the bike and my legs felt pretty good. I changed into my running gear and I was off onto my first marathon. The run was a three-loop course. I broke up the run into mini-intervals all afternoon. I ran aid station to aid station; got water, oranges and cola, kept up with my electrolyte replacement and felt good the whole time. After I got the first loop done I knew I had it. I started smiling from ear to ear. I never hit the wall. I was happy my training and execution had paid off. I was thankful that I had received the gift to be here. The spectators were great. They all high-fived me coming into the finishing shoot. My wife and kids were right there. I raised my arms as I crossed the finish yelling out the loudest cry of joy as the announcer said, “Greg, you are an IRONMAN!” I was still standing. There was still daylight. I felt good. I felt a sense of accomplishment. I felt a sense of survival. I was prepared. I executed. I was proud. The journey was incredible. One I will always remember. It was a heck of a story.
Gregory H. Tchejeyan, MDMy newfound dedication to health and fitness has changed my life. It has become apart of my everyday life. It has changed my priorities, the way I practice medicine and how I live my life. I have a better appreciation for sports physiology. I have a desire to further my knowledge about nutrition and human performance. I am always up for a new challenge or adventure. It took several years to happen but with a little perseverance it is possible for anyone. Just as Ironman is the ultimate endurance event in a single day, lifelong fitness is the ultra-endurance event of all time. That is the ultimate goal. It all starts with finding a purpose and a reason why to become healthy no matter how big or small. Take ownership of your health. There are no crash diets that will work. Eat to live rather than live to eat. Think of food as a fuel for your body. Practice self-control. Recognize that we are given the freedom of movement and embrace it. Sleep. It is a critical part of health. Push yourself outside your comfort zone. That is a good thing. It will make you stronger. You cannot procrastinate. When you do, it’s often too late and the damage may be irreversible. Make it a priority. Life is not a dress rehearsal. This IS the time. Success to achieving these goals will be by building habits. Focus on progress not the small bumps along the way. Realize that this will take time. Set your mind on your goals, always strive for improvement and believe in yourself. In my mind this is the recipe for success.