I had the pleasure of meeting Jake beginning of December when he approached me for coaching his first Ironman race. He is the owner of a successful gym in Bellingham, and I felt he was an immediate kindred spirit in the fitness industry as he is all about inspiring those to better health and life. Jake is a big strong guy, not your average Ironman build, but I had seen him in running races around Whatcom county a few times in the past and remember saying to myself, “man, that muscular guy can really run.” We went to work on building up his swim from pretty much ground zero, and also developing the endurance to ride 112mi and still have the reserves to run 26miles. Jake put his head down and did amazing work, showing great strength in his biking and running. He also was diligent in the pool and removed any doubt that he would be able to easily manage the swim when we built in those race distance sessions near raceday.
Then in came COVID-19. Pools shut down, the lakes were still too cold, trips to warm climates to allow some open water swim training were cancelled, and the challenges of not only maintaining, but adapting his business to thrive in this new environment became priority. Amidst all this, I remember the conversation with Jake where I asked him how he would like to approach the spring, now that Ironman Texas was postponed. He said after all the work he had put in, “I am thinking of doing the ironman on my own in WA on the race day, like make my own course and go do it!” We made a new plan to perform an Ironman duathlon on the race weekend, since there would be no swimming until at least May. The day before his event, however, he texted me and stated that he wanted to swim, and would do it in his surfing wetsuit with full hood because his triathlon wetsuit would be too cold in low 50 degree water. This would create even more challenge after not swimming for 2 months and never doing a swim near Ironman distance, and in a wetsuit that would was not built with the flexibility to move your arms freely for 2.4 miles.
Now if you need inspiration, Jake’s self-made Ironman day had plenty of inspiration to spare. He started his swim at 6:30 AM in cold Lake Padden with rain and wind, then thawed out before starting the first 56 hilly miles of his bike route on his own. A friend offered company the second 56 miles and then it came down to the run. Jake could have easily chosen a flat run, but his route ended up being anything but flat. I was able to witness most of the run though, and how inspiring was it that so many family, friends, and clients came out to cheer him on and offer him company.http://www.advantagemultisport.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/img_2218.mov
Jake’s individual pursuit of his goal had become a team effort, and was inspiring those around him to do more than they had before. One of Jake’s long time clients ran 20 miles with him, his longest run ever, and other family and friends stepped in to help throughout the day. My own training day had already consisted of a 2h bike and a 2h hike hilly hike with family, but I was so truly inspired by Jake that I drove home about halfway through his run, ate a quick bite, grabbed my running shoes and went back to meet him to help pace him over the last 10k and into the darker hours. Jake was so positive, all smiles, and tough as nails running under mounting fatigue with no one to chase, no aid stations to break up the day. But being able to witness his “finish line” with friends and family cheering him in was such an uplifting, heart warming, tear jerking experience. My impression of Mike Riley’s calling, “Jake, you are an Ironman” probably left a lot to be desired, but was also unnecessary. Jake knows what he accomplished yesterday, and the inspiration he provoked through the all day effort was more than just a sporting accomplishment. A first Ironman is a very special event, but the way he took this one on yesterday made it more then just ja race. Jake truly touched the hearts of all those around him yesterday. Jake, you are truly an ironman in every sense of the word.