TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent
When I learned a few months ago of the journey Richard Reilly has been on I knew I had to interview him. Richard has lost over 140 pounds, now fits into size 34 jeans and is an Ironman Finisher. Please join me as we get to know this skinny guy!
Craig: What was your athletic background before your became an adult?
Richard: My parents encouraged us to play multiple sports and were really involved at many levels. I am not sure there was a time when we were not playing a sport. We played football and baseball and I branched out in high school and added wrestling, soccer, golf and even threw the discus and shot put. Baseball was really my favorite sport as a youth.
Craig: What is the tale of the tape? How much did you weigh at your peak and what weight have you settled into?
Richard: Sadly, my highest weight was just over 340 pounds and which included a 52” waist. Today I try to stay around 185 pounds and a 33/34” waist.
Craig: What do you do for a living and did that lead to your weight gain?
Richard: I would like to blame my IT career for my weight but my issue is that I am a food lover and a workaholic. Being on call all the time leads to long hours and poor eating habits and with my ability to eat just about anything, it really did not help. It is so easy to just plod along through life focused on work and family and without any real exercise.
Craig: What inspired you to change your lifestyle?
Richard: It started with a doctor that was so focused on my weight and trying to make me believe I was a diabetic instead of just over-weight. She went so far as to enroll me in a program even after I did 3 months of testing and never was in any range showing I was a Diabetic.
I did start to work on my eating habits and exercise, but the real change came when my wife started training for her first triathlon. I could not walk a mile without knee pain but would walk with her and walk the block by our house as she cycled and ran. Then I got a bike so I could ride with her as she continued to train. I wanted her to have someone that could be there with her on her workouts. It just kind of steam rolled from there.
Craig: What were some of the key components that led to your successful weight loss and newfound health?
Richard: It was actually a few items that really kept me on track.
First, I had not eaten a regular breakfast since starting high school. This was one of my first changes, but it took me a while to find a few items I could eat that also helped me kick-start the rest of my day.
I also started actually watching and recording what I ate. Most people say this is hard but it really isn’t and it really helps you understand what actually goes in your mouth. There are a few really good tools out there that are free and work on multiple platforms, which allow you to record your input from anywhere. I used a tool that worked on my iPhone called “My Plate”.
The last item was finding enjoyment in exercise. Before starting this process, I broke a sweat getting my shoes on. Working out with my wife I found enjoyment in doing these three separate events and actually making some goals in the process. I had no idea that this would lead to me doing a triathlon and even running.
Craig: Did anything nearly derail your efforts? If so, how did you overcome those obstacles?
Richard: I have had knee issues since I was a teenager. As I started working out the weight was an obstacle but the knee swelling really was an issue. I went to several doctors who would drain the knee but often they would tell me to stop doing what I was doing since it was the cause of my issues. I was losing weight so I was not going to stop doing what I was doing, but it was discouraging. We found a doctor who was sports minded and he actually looked at me, learned about what I was doing and was the first one to say, keep it up, but maybe it is time to focus on other muscles. He actually pointed out that I had to do more than just pedal my bike and run. What a concept!
Over the last 6 years, the knee issues subsided as I got lighter and stronger and became more aware of my body. I still have little issues on and off but I no longer have major issues and appreciate that I was able to continue to move towards my goals and lose the weight.
Craig: Your wife Lisa really played a key role in your success. Not only in helping to get you out the door to exercise, but also by continuing to love you during the journey. Is she the best wife ever?
Richard: I can’t say enough how much Lisa has meant to me. She has supported and encouraged me even when I was discouraged and not the best person. Often she has done this giving up her time and that had an impact of her goals and desires. We have had several journeys in our 24-year marriage that should have really broken us and yet she kept everything together. It is so easy to get sucked in to the machine of life and what is next with work and home and so on.
Often people say you two are so lucky that you can do this together. I used to find this as an odd comment but today; I get what people are saying. I have had the benefit of a wonderful woman in my life and now we get to do things together especially as our children grow-up and become adults. It is enjoyable to do this together and learn more about each other along the way. I can’t wait to see what the rest of these years we have together bring. There are some destination events we are really looking forward to doing in the near future.
Craig: What race performances are you the most proud of?
Richard: My first timed event was the Wildflower long course. I definitely had no idea what I was doing. I had never run a trail and had never run a half-marathon either. I finished this event and when I got to the finish chute, I was hooked. It only took me a couple of hours to decide I wanted to do this again.
I would like to say that my first Ironman finish was my moment but it wasn’t and only led me to want more.
The real moment was watching my wife finish Ironman Arizona in 2013. It was an epic day for so many reasons but being there supporting her was hook number two for me and really took this whole thing to a new level. I can’t wait for this year’s event to get here as she signed up again and I look forward to this next journey.
Craig: What are some of your favorite destination events?
Richard: Leadman in Bend, Oregon was absolutely a destination event not only for the location but the race was handled so well. It is one of the events we want to do again.
I would love to do Wildflower again just to see how far I have come and compare the experience. I would have to do it without camping this time since that is part of the experience the family did not really enjoy.
We are now looking at events that we can do together including Ironman Chattanooga and Ironman Barcelona.
Craig: In what areas have you served as a volunteer for the TCSD?
Richard: I joined TCSD in 2009 before doing any events and answered an email about some tech help for the club and showed up to help. I have been helping somewhere ever since. I tried to do several things early on by helping at the events with timing, setup and tear down but as the training picked up, it was harder and harder to help out in those areas and still get those longer training days done. Of course, I still fit in other volunteer efforts at local events too. Helping on the website and in the digital arena really fit my schedule and I have been doing that ever since.
Today, I do website administration and manage the workout calendar, help moderate TSCD Yahoo groups and then assist on Facebook. I also work on covering race discounts and post them for members on the website. In 2014, I joined with a friend (Jim Richardson) to co-lead a running group at Lake Miramar. It really was a great way to help manage some new running goals and grow the training partner group. It has been a blast.
I did decide to do more this year and ran for a club office but was not successful at getting a seat but look forward to continuing to assist and hopefully run for another seat if time allows the next time they are open.
Craig: Beyond your TCSD job, what is your triathlon related mission?
Richard: I want to show people it can be done. It takes work, but it can be done and it can be fun. You can get outside, enjoy working out with others and even eat. Yes, you can watch your weight and eat too. It really gets easier when you find something you enjoy doing. It helps that we have a great group in TCSD and as you are out there in your gear, you hear “GO TCSD”; what a motivator.
Craig: What TCSD member would you like to single out as someone you really admire?
Richard: A few people came to mind here including many training partners and others who have supported me along the way. So many good choices, but I have to say Gerry Forman sticks out for me. He embodies that TCSD spirit and, of course, is always encouraging. We could be in a deep conversation during a run, figuring out some odd world issue and he would acknowledge others, stop and pet a dog, say hello to people and still continue on like nothing happened. Too often we just go about our workouts and this really showed a different side of the process. It has had a big impact on me and, of course, I find myself saying hello during a workout while passing others and I really enjoy the feedback. Now if I can just figure out how he remembers so many names.
I have met a lot of people in this journey over the last 6 years but I learned a few things from him and not just about the sport. I know a lot of people say “I want to be doing this when I am his age” and of course that would be great but I think what stuck out to me most is his engagement with others not just the ladies and the dogs.
Craig: What are your future triathlon goals?
Richard: I want to continue to do the 140.6 races (not focused on a brand but the distance). I want to start doing other courses outside my comfort zone. It is time to start going further to races than I can drive in a day. Yes, you heard right, so far, we have driven to all our races even Bend, Oregon. We have some destination goals like Barcelona Spain and I really want to do a 50-mile run soon. This opens up the course choices, now we just need to pick a new venue or two and work towards the goal.
Craig: Richard, the obstacles you have overcome already are very impressive. Thank you for sharing your story. Your family, the TCSD and our local community are lucky to have you as a great example of all that is possible. The sky is the limit!
Craig Zelent is a USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach. Craig can be reached at 760-214-0055 or firstname.lastname@example.org.