It’s Story Time

As you can probably imagine, I’ve had a whole lot of time to sit around and think. A lot of time to have ideas kind of stew and gestate in my brain. Some positive, some negative, some neutral. But today, I want to share about my journey of the last few years. I think it’ll shed some light on why I am the person I am, how I got here, where I’m going, and why this stupid little cancer can just go away and leave me alone.

It All Began

2008 was a good year for me. I was in relatively good shape coming out of college a few years ago, and while I wasn’t regularly going to the gym as much anymore, my buddy Dennis and I made a pact to get back into good shape. I don’t really have any good “before” images, but needless to say, we were both doing well. Then, Dennis had a health-related emergency, and things broke down for a bit. Luckily, everything worked out with it, and we moved on. To this day, we still talk about that time period with fondness. Something about working out with a good buddy can provide memories that last years.

During ’08, I decided that I wanted to finally get off my ass and play a sport. So I picked snowboarding. I had always wanted to go, and I had always been a winter guy. Years stuck up at Schenectady, NY, for college, though, made me dread the winter and everything that came along with it. I think I was definitely dealing with some seasonal depression, but I was just too stupid to ask for help.

Anyway, my sister had gone a few times before, so she offered to take me. Nobody else really wanted to go with a pure beginner, and honestly, I don’t blame them. I was real bad. Like oh so bad. But Lauren and I stayed on the bunny hill all day, and I think by the end of the day, I was able to get off the chair lift without falling like…every other time. Maybe. I could even use ONE of my edges to get down the slope!

Well, that was all it took. After picking up snowboarding (once, haha), then spending the summer working out with Dennis, I went straight to the tent sale at Pedigree Ski in White Plains that August, and my sister and I made a pact. We were going to buy gear, and we were going to learn to snowboard if it killed us. Ok, maybe I was a little more gung ho about the “if it killed us” part, but we figured, if we just rented boards, then we wouldn’t necessarily want to go as much or as often as if we had bought the boards ourselves.

Well, we were right. A friend had a family house in Stratton, Vermont, and I organized a pretty sizeable trip to it with a bunch of friends. We spent 3 days there, and by the end of that trip, I was doing blacks and timidly doing double blacks (the hardest trails).

Fast forward to 2009. I am now dating the friend who has the house in Stratton, and things are going great. We take a trip out to Jackson Hole, Wyoming at the end of the season, and it absolutely destroyed me. Mentally, physically, emotionally. But I came back with goals, with determination, and a knowledge of just how much more there was to snowboarding that I hadn’t even begun to tap.

Somewhere after here, I lost my way a bit. Here I am at the end of 2009:

I’m the one on the left.

I was in shape, a solid 190 pounds, happy.

Here I am again, this time in July of 2010:

I always carried weight pretty well, but if you look, I’ve got a bulging gut, a double chin, and man boobs. It’s not pretty. When I was looking at these pictures, I was embarrassed. And the ones that I ended up putting online and saving were the most flattering that I could find. Around here I was weighing in at a nice, juicy, 230 pounds. Already I was pretty unhappy with myself, but things just got kind of worse as time went on.

Here’s rock bottom, April 25th, 2011:

*Not so sexy panther.

Visibly larger, this is when I started to think “What the hell did I do to myself?”. The girlfriend and I broke up just a few short weeks or days after this picture was taken. The day after, though, I signed up to start training with a guy in New Rochelle, who would become my close friend over the course of the next year and change.

The Way Past

Walking into Rui’s training gym, we did an evaluatory work out. I was in piss-poor shape, to be sure. I was 229 pounds, 29% body fat, and couldn’t do step ups for more than 30 seconds without getting extremely winded. I couldn’t touch my toes, I couldn’t do any of the physical things that I used to be able to do.

I was ashamed. I was sad. I was disheartened.

I was determined.

2011 saw a different Tony, one that I hadn’t released in a really long time. I was newly focused, energized, ready and willing to do anything it took to achieve what I wanted. Progress was swift.

I hit 300lb dead lifts in just a few months. I hit personal best 225+ bench presses that summer. I rehabbed old injuries, I fixed new ones, I didn’t let ANYTHING stop me.

By December, I was down to 190lbs again, this time around 14% body fat, with some serious lifting numbers behind me. My dead lift peaked at about 415lbs (for 10 reps), my bench was at ~250lbs (for 10 reps, with a bum shoulder), my squat was around 350 (10 reps), and all around, I was an animal.

I hit this past snowboard season like a god damn hurricane. Not one run did I need a break. Not once was anyone waiting for me (with the exception of the expert chutes at Jackson Hole, where you duck down a 30 yard wide trail between two cliff faces. Give me a break, ok? :P). I crushed this past season, and I went back to Jackson Hole with my buddy Dan, and we did things to that mountain that I don’t think I could have EVER imagined doing in just 4 seasons of riding.

And I decided I wanted more. In the fall of ’11, I signed up for the Aquaphor NYC Triathlon. I had never done any kind of endurance race. I never ran track, I never competed on a bike, I never swam. I was always a contact sports guy. So, feeling confident and comfortable, I wanted to expand my boundaries.

Plus, my family is full of awesome athletes that have completed triathlons, half marathons, marathons, and other crazy physical endurance challenges. My cousin Jenny and her father Doug (who’s physical shape defies his age) did the Empire State Building Stair Climb together, and did it fast.

In honor of my cousin Ryan, I decided to run the triathlon for Autism Speaks, which meant a lot to me, because my normal charitable contributions tend towards small things, so this was going to be my first “big” charity fund raiser type deal.

Here I am, on the day I should have been riding in the NYC Triathlon, in my Autism Speaks gear. This is almost 2 years to the day of that picture of me, fat and out of shape, from 2010:

Even with PICC lines in, I look good. And that’s after a full month of inactivity!

Whelp, We Know How That Went

So. My plan kind of fell apart, as it were. I didn’t get to run in my triathlons. I haven’t been able to work out since May, breaking a streak I had going for a full year (3x a week for a year, missing a total of 6 days, 4 of which were due to bronchitis, 1 because my trainer had to reschedule, 1 because I got stuck at work until 9pm).

I’m annoyed, a little depressed about it, and just anxious to get back to physical activity.

And yet, I’ve found that motivating myself to do something…really anything…to be difficult.

That ends now.

Today, I’m getting on my bike and riding. I don’t care that it’s indoors, I don’t care that it’s not the same, I’m not giving myself those excuses anymore. Tomorrow, when I get back from my neulasta injection, as long as my white blood cell counts are still in the “safe” range, I’m going to Rui’s gym, saying hi to all the guys I’ve missed in the last month, and I’m doing some rehab work. I’ll continue to bike until my numbers are normal again, and then I’m hitting the gym when I’m approved for it, up until the day I have to go back for the next round, whatever it may be. And please don’t worry about me. I’m not going to go past my limits, and I know how to do these things safely. I’m serious – NO WORRIED TEXT MESSAGES, PEOPLE. Got it? 🙂

I am a champion. No excuses, no whining, I’m coming out of this stupid mess with a smile on my face, no matter what happens.

I mean, shit, I shaved the mohawk off today. Fun and games are done – it’s go time.

 

Update:

30 minutes, no issues, nice and easy. Even did some interval/sprint work. Feel good. Might have someone chase-car me outside soon if I’m cleared for it (i.e., my platelets are still in the safe range). If not, keeping up this inside biking bit.

 

Helmet totally necessary.

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9 comments

  1. Go for it. That’s all I have to say.

    1. That’s the plan 🙂

  2. You got this. Plow forward my friend.

    1. You know it 🙂

  3. oh god i loved the mohawk, but i guess it had to go

    1. It was thinning out like crazy 😦

      With all the positive vibes I’ve been getting from it, though, I might have to rock the mohawk for a little while once chemo is done 🙂

      1. the world of hats is beckoning

      2. That’s the thing – I have never liked or looked good in hats before, so I own pretty much zero of them. Guess it’s time to do some research, huh?

  4. […] sure. Either way, you can see where I was heading before leukemia gave me a bit of a side tracking, right here. If you’re finding me from Cycling Illustrated, this post has a heavy focus on training, […]

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