Left, Jimmy Tracey in 2014 before he took up triathlon. Right, Jimmy now. Image Credit: Supplied

I was 140kg. I lost 48kg

My name is Jimmy Tracey and I love Triathlon.

In April 2014, if you had told me I would write those words I would never have believed you.  I was seriously overweight and did not take any exercise at all.  After a holiday with family and friends in April 2014 I knew I had to do something, I was continuously tired, had no energy and the weight was becoming embarrassing. 


Jimmy Tracey before he lost 48kg through diet and training.


Years of corporate travel, long working hours, bad eating habits, lots of soft fizzy drinks, other drinks and no exercise had taken its toll.  I was shocked when I weighed myself. I weighed in at close to 140 kilos (nearly twice the weight I was twelve years earlier).  I knew I had no healthy future at that weight.

2014

After the vacation in April I decided I was going to do something about my weight.  I bought a Fitbit step counter, a set of bathroom scales and armed with these and lots of willpower I decided to tackle the problem head on.  I sent out an email to a close group of friends committing to lose 45 kilos and in doing so committing to raise money for the Christina Noble charity.  I also committed to sending a weekly update on my weight loss, the idea of this was to keep me accountable, and it worked! 


Jimmy Tracey lost 25kg in three months after deciding to do something about his poor health.


I was soon making progress and lost 25 kilos in three months. I was feeling much better and full of energy.  In July two friends in my office (Mark and Willie) who were involved in triathlon and cycling asked me to sign up to complete a Super Sprint Triathlon to be held in October 2014.  I laughed, those Triathletes are super fit and I would have no place doing that I said!  But they persevered and I finally agreed.  A number of friends (Dave and Declan) agreed to do it with me for support and I was committed.   

A training plan was hatched, my first (of now many) bike was bought plus a Garmin watch and I was set.  The training started very slowly, I was “ok” on the bike and the swim but terrible on the run.  Initially the 2.5k “run” was taking me 25 – 35 minutes – most people can walk faster than that.

Finally it was race day. I was incredibly nervous as were my two friends who had never completed a triathlon before.  Other friends were taking it in their stride.  However, the support at the event was fantastic.  There were quite a few first timers at the event and I started to relax. 

A quick summary of the race

Swim (375m) - went out too hard, kicked in the face and goggles knocked off.

Bike (10km) - crashed and went over the handlebars trying to make up time from the swim!

Run (2.5km) - ribs busted from fall off bike so run was no fun.

52 minutes later it was all over.

Thankfully I had a close friend in transition to keep me focused and on track. Willie, you were fantastic!  At one stage, during the run, I was struggling and walking. A competitor who I had never met before stopped to help me and motivate me to get me running again.  This I have since realized is typical of the type of support in the Dubai Triathlon community.  So the race was a disaster and I loved every minute of it.  I was completely hooked.  The buzz, the commitment of those involved -  from athletes to support staff was fantastic.  I could not wait to do it again.

After the race I continued the training and competed in a number of other local events including the Spinneys Dubai 92k bike race.  Getting carried away with myself I signed up with a friend, Mark Paver, to complete an Ironman 70.3 race in Dublin in August 2015. For those not familiar, this is referred to as a half Ironman - 1.9km swim, 90km bike ride and a 21km run.   At this stage I thought I was crazy and my family and friends knew I was crazy.  I had barely run 5km never mind 21km! 

Towards the end of 2014 I had lost over 40 kilos and this felt fantastic. I now weighed in at close to 96 kilos.  I felt fit, healthy and had lots of energy.

By the end of 2014, Jimmy Tracey had lost more than 40kg.


I had become much better at managing my time, maintaining a work life balance and ensuring I was able to exercise whilst travelling.  I entered 2015 with lots of enthusiasm.  The support from my family and friends was fantastic and really pushed me forward.

2015  

The focus for the year was the Ironman 70.3 in Dublin in August.  I had signed up to a number of events in the lead up to the race and I also attended a locally organized Tri Camp.  I competed in the ITU event in Abu Dhabi (went very well) in March and an Olympic distance (1.5km swim, 20km bike, 10km run) triathlon on the Palm in April.  After the Olympic distance I realized the enormity of the task in competing in Dublin in August. I had lots of work to do. 

While talking to Luke Mathews a number of weeks after the race, he agreed to help me with a training plan.  While I had plans and trainers previously I had not committed to them fully.  Luke agreed to help only on the understanding I would commit the time and focus to complete the training plans that he would set.  The training plan was very focused but was progressive. It was time consuming, but I made the time, some weeks close to 15 hours.  Everything was data driven and what had seemed very scary before in terms of data and acronyms soon became second nature.  I made good progress and could really see real improvement in my fitness and the times were falling.  August was approaching and I was as ready as I could be. 

Dublin Ironman 70.3

Mark and I flew to Dublin (thank you for the upgrades Emirates) and got set up for the race.  The weather in Dublin for the race was ok, cold but mainly dry.  The sea was COLD, freezing COLD.  A few practice swims, lots of neoprene and we realized we were ready.  Luke had set a race plan for me, but also given me some advice that things would go wrong. I had to deal with it and adjust the plan.    A quick summary of the race

Swim – first 1km fantastic – second 900m became 1.25km because I sighted incorrectly – overall, however, it was an ok swim

Bike, went well – I took it easy knowing I had to run a half Marathon (21km) for the first time.

Run – For me it was good, the training, being sensible on the bike all helped enormously.

6 Hours 52 Minutes later I was finished.  I had done it! My first Ironman 70.3. It took longer than I wanted but crossing the line felt fantastic.  My family and friends were at the finish to cheer Mark and I on and it was a wonderful day.  Luke’s plan, coaching and the hours of hard work had paid off.

While enjoying a drink that evening and much to my wife’s dismay Mark and I agreed to sign up for a full Ironman in 2016.  This involves a 3.8km swim, 180km bike ride and then a Marathon (42km).  I had been thinking about a full Ironman for some time. It is a massive challenge but I was really starting to believe I could do it, after all a year earlier completing an Ironman 70.3 was unimaginable. Now it was done.  Training for this is now well under way. 

I completed my second Ironman 70.3 event in Bahrain in December this year.  Unfortunately due to bad weather the swim was cancelled however the bike and run went on as normal.  I completed the race in 5 Hours and 2 minutes, a large improvement over the Dublin event.  I travelled to Bahrain with a group from Tri Dubai.  For those who are not aware Tri Dubai is a Dubai-based Triathlon Club. They meet weekly for group training sessions (free of charge) for all levels.  Everyone is made to feel welcome and I am always impressed by how helpful and welcoming the group is. 

In early 2015 I put back on 4 kilos and after that my weight loss plateaued.  This was a surprise given the amount of training I was doing.  However in October of 2015 I signed up to work with a nutritionist and managed to drop close to 10 kilos before the end of the year.  As such at the end of 2015 my total weight loss was close to 48 kilos from my start on April 26 2014.

I have seen large reductions in my times for all disciplines in 2015 and more importantly I am enjoying the training.  My wife would say I have also seen large reductions in my bank balance, new clothes every 3 months which is great, but also a couple of new bikes and other triathlon gear.  Things were also changing with my training. I have gone from hating the thought of running to looking forward to my runs each week.  The runs were increasing in distance which I was really enjoying.  As part of the journey to Ironman Bolton, Mark and I decided to compete in the Dubai Marathon in January 2016.

2016 and beyond

Marathon day, 22nd January came around very fast.  I was really pleased that 11 of my colleagues from GCC Services were competing in the various race distances on the day.  As always Luke put a solid race plan together with me and I was ready.  This was the first time I have ever run a Marathon distance and was unsure if I could get it done.  I was delighted to finish in 4 hours 36 minutes, this was within 1 minute of the race plan.  What a difference from two years earlier!    

The Ironman race in Bolton is now less than six months away.  The volume of training is increasing  and I am looking forward to competing in the UK in July.  I am confident that with hard work I can complete the full Ironman distance.  The weight loss and Triathlon have changed my way of life and I am not going back.

On the weight front I am working on losing another 10 kilos and would like to be at the 80 kg mark before the end of the year.  I am sure it is achievable.

In terms of sport I am enjoying what I do and I am hooked on triathon.  I am competing to continuously challenge myself and ensure I stay fit and healthy.  Once I achieve my target of a full Ironman distance race I want to complete the Comrades Ultra Marathon in South Africa (89km).  For those who don’t think its possible look how far I have come already.

If you want to track my progress you can follow my page on Facebook - #140kilosto140miles.  I hope to see you out training or racing soon …

What worked for me in losing weight and starting out in Triathlon?

Weight loss

Set a clear goal – be sensible with your targets.  I set realistic calorie goals and used the MyFitnessPal app to track my food intake and I weighed myself once a week.

Get a support group.  I used a weekly email to friends to hold myself accountable.  This made all the difference and is without question the reason for my weight loss success.  Being held accountable plus the support and encouragement was fantastic.

Do something.  I know it is hard but it all starts when you do.  Putting it off is not the answer, I did this for years and I just got heavier.  Make a bold statement, make your challenge public and like me you will be amazed at the support you get.

Triathlon/exercise

Stop making excuses that you don’t have time to get fit. Make time, your health is so important, don’t neglect it. I have a family life, work full time and travel regularly for work.  There is always a way to make time and fit in some exercise. Check and you will be amazed how much time you spend on your phone or social media - reinvest some of this time in exercise.

Family support is key if you want to complete a long distance event.  It is time consuming and you have to work to fit everything in.  Get your family involved.

Triathlon - It is not just for superhuman athletes.  There are lots of normal competitors as well as the elite Athletes.  Get involved – the local triathlon community is incredibly supportive. 

Enjoy it.  We are lucky as triathletes that it is three separate disciplines so the training never gets boring.

I am lucky that I work for a company that encourages fitness and work life balance.  Find a company to work for that value these. 

I have made my biggest improvements working with a coach. At the very least get yourself a training plan so you give time to each discipline or join in with the Tri Dubai group sessions.

Look after and invest in yourself – I get weekly sports massage to keep injury free.

Join a Triathlon club – my personal experience has been that the Tri Dubai support is fantastic.  Everyone in the club is willing to give advice and assistance.

We are blessed in Dubai with world class bike (Al Qudra and District 1 amongst others) and run facilities, get out there and use them.  The local bike shops organize group bike rides for all levels at the weekends – join in.