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The Everyday Guy's Triathlon Journey

By David Towler | Aug. 20, 2019, 12:19 p.m. (ET)

David Towler

I’m the guy you’ll see pedaling alone on the highway at odd times, making good but not great time.

Or you’ll see in the pool swimming laps at a good but not great pace — for sometimes more than an hour.

And occasionally you’ll see my name listed in the results of sprint (and this summer maybe even Olympic-distance) triathlons.

But you won’t find my name on the top three list, or even the finishers list, of any IRONMAN or Half-Iron distance triathlon races.

Genetics reared its ugly head and blessed me with knees prone to OCD (not the Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder kind, but the other one — Osteo Chondritis Dissecans). In my younger days, I was athletic enough to be competitive at all three disciplines, but running was my sport, and I wasn’t half bad. Well, after four surgeries on my knees before the age of 40, I am forced to keep the running to a minimum. But that’s the magic of triathlon. I can do most of my training in the pool or on the bike, keep my running to a controlled amount, and still be fairly competitive, at least in my age group.

Lest the reader of this should think that this is just simply a story of someone who dabbles in the sport just for the fun of it, please read on. I readily admit that I do triathlons for the fun of it. However, for me it’s a lot more than that.

Just before my 25th birthday, I was in my second year of law school at the University of Texas, licensed as a CPA, could still run a 10k under 40 minutes and a 5K under 19 minutes, married to my high school sweetheart, and had the world firmly by the tail. I was 10 feet tall and bullet-proof.

And then one morning I found myself at the University Health Clinic listening to them tell me I had Type 1 Diabetes — which my father had died from15 years earlier. Needless to say, I was crushed.

I’m now 61 years old and 36 years Type 1. The exercise that I used to do for fun I now do for a much more important reason — my quality and quantity of life. I now understand that I am neither 10 feet tall, nor bullet-proof. But I also understand that despite a little set-back 36 years ago, and a genetically weak pair of knees, I am still in control of my health.

If I had thought that running was my only option, I may have long ago given up the fight against a terrible disease. But finding triathlon (and Crossfit, but that’s another story) has opened up my mind to other possibilities for my health, my desire to compete and my recreation.

We all have that angel that we’ve had to wrestle on our way back to Canaan (see Genesis 32:22-31). Mine was Type 1 Diabetes. But just like Jacob, if we don’t give up, we will get our blessing.

I surely got mine. 

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