A Fit Fifty Seventh Birthday

As I commemorated my fifty-seventh birthday, I have contemplated changes over the last eighteen months.

January 2020 was not all that long ago. I was fifty-five years of age, I decided that the bastard obesity had finally won the war. I was ready to give up, not solely on life, but on living itself. Mounting stress and ill-treatment had allowed my frame to morph into a shell of the person I had once been. It was time for that shell to accept, even seriously consider hastening, his demise.


For some unknown reason, I opted not to hasten. I cannot say why, but in February, again for an unknown reason, I opted to fight back. I was NOT going to lie down, I was NOT going to roll over, I was NOT going to “go quietly into that night,” or any night – at least not with the bastard obesity as the ultimate victor.

Along the way, I have had the support of many. For that support, I am grateful. To say I have been touched, would be a gross understatement. To say I have been humbled, would not do justice to the word humble.

Each step down from 375lbs was met with highs and lows. For every high there was excitement, for each low there was stronger determination. I would not lose this battle with the bastard obesity.


Earlier this year, my friend and colleague Dr. Scott Leslie posted his following of a young man with Down Syndrome being the first such individual to not only compete but complete an Ironman Distance Triathlon. He had not overcome some bad lifestyle choices; he had simply played the hand which he was dealt. He did not let “perceived” limitations stop him. He went ahead and achieved.


His achievement inspired me.


I started looking around for a triathlon in which to compete. Initially, I was looking for an Ironman distance. Scott talked sense to me. Next, I found an Olympic distance race and entered. However, with COVID-19 still dominating our lives, I found no way to get into a pool to swim, that didn’t happen until the end of April.

Additionally, winter had decided to go out with a vengeance, so getting out on a bike was also not happening, that didn’t happen until the beginning of April. With only about two months of triathlon specific training ahead, once again, the rational mind of an experienced triathlete helped me see that the Sprint distance was the way to go, and the organizers made no argument in changing my registration.


As of this past Sunday, just days before my fifty-seventh birthday, I completed by third triathlon in a four-month timeframe. There are a lot of people who helped me along the ways. I have mentioned them at various times. I feel the need to mention them again. When naming names, it is always possible to miss someone. If I missed anyone, please do not take offense, and please message me so I can revise and include. Remember, I am going to be seventy-seven years old (in 20 years ) so my memory isn’t what it once was.


  • My little dog, who means the world to me.

  • My sponsors, Mark Leffler for providing the bicycle. Ed Charney, of Charney Farms, for providing the swim gear. Racquel Hettesheimer, of Tailored Kneads, for providing therapeutic massage. Dr. Adriene Zulkoski for Chiropractic needs. Mary Ann, Nicole, Jennie, Kim, Nicole, Nicole, Nicole and Shawn who donated via GoFundMe. Patient Amanda Reardon who wanted to contribute the entry fee to the latest triathlon. I’ve been treating Mandy since she was fourteen years old, I am grateful, because she is much more than simply one of my first patients nearly a quarter century ago, she is a close friend who entrusted the care of her family to me; so for more than the fee, but for that trust I am eternally grateful.

  • Annie and Racquel. My co-workers during the worst of COVID. We helped each other get through crisis, and you two helped me stay focused and on track.

  • Florence❤ who kicked me in the ass when I was ready to completely quit.

  • My friend Brian, who had to listen to me prattle on about highs and lows. Yet, still had me on his radio show to discuss my journey.

  • My sister Oliva, for allowing me the use of her SUV to transport my bike and myself to the first two events. It alleviated a great deal of stress, worrying about taking the bike apart and putting it back together on race day.

  • Each and every person on social media and my blog. Your thumbs ups, words of encouragement and reassurance have been a big help along the way. And you wouldn’t allow me to quit on myself.

  • My accountability buddies, initially Carol, and now Monica, Candace, Karen and Bernie. Keeping each other on track made this all possible.

  • A MONSTEROUS SHOUT OUT to Sharon and Matt Detwiler, who when they found out I had no one accompanying me to the first event, asked if they could make the trek up to Lake Wallenpaupack and be my side. Tears touch my eyes as I type these words. Thank you, you made one of the best days of my life a day which I did not have to experience alone.

  • Another MONSTEROUS SHOUT OUT to Candace and Christopher Kopiak who ventured down to Quakertown to be my support system for triathlon number two. They cheered me on, took pictures and helped me with my gear. They touched my heart and made sure I would not forget the experience. As Sharon and Matt had done for event number one, they were there to ensure I did not have to experience the results of hard training alone.

  • A BIG SHOUT OUT to the staff and volunteers and other competitors on each race day. You were encouraging from the moment of arrival, to the first steps into the lake, and along each mile along the courses, making each race an experience which this newbie will not forget.

  • And one more BIG SHOUT OUT to new friend Janet, who I ran into with her friends, Sophia and Jill (who was not only competing, but is also a fellow indie author) as we trekked the mile from the parking spot to transition area. Janet would not take no for an answer and lugged my gear back to my car. Additionally, she took some photos for me to commemorate the day. I am learning the triathlon community is one of which I am glad to be joining.

Going through all of this allowed me to realize, that for whatever the bad in life has been; I am blessed much more than I deserve. Even at the times of a momentary lapse in that realization, when self-pity and anger express themselves in annoying venting, in the long run, I vow, I will not forget exactly just how blessed I am.


The Aloha Spirit with one and all.

Mahalo,

Joe