Coached by Olympic Center instructor, 46-year-old goes from his first 5K to Iron Brothers Super Sprint. By Pearl Cantrell Monitor Staff Writer GUN BARREL CITY–If you have ever thought it’s too hot outside, you’re too out of shape or too old to significantly change your level of fitness, this story is for you.Two years ago, Lance Vernon was just like most of us – in his mid-40s, working a regular job, overweight and underactive.But earlier this month, Vernon competed in his very first triathlon. Out of a field of 289 finishers, he came in 24th.
Courtesy PhotoLance Vernon (left) stands with coach William Ritter just before competing in his first triathlon.
In his age category, he came in fifth, just seconds behind third place.Two years ago, he had never run even a short distance. Now, he wants to know if he can compete again with a faster time.A year and a half ago, he quit drinking and thought, now what am I going to do?He turned to physical exercise. At 5-7 and 230 pounds, his knees hurt when he tried to jog. But this did not deter him. Vernon decided to seek help, so he joined the East Texas Medical Center’s Olympic Center, for fitness building.Besides using the weight room, he took a water aerobics class, and slowly began to try the other classes as well.It took him about a year to lose enough weight so his knees didn’t hurt anymore.While stepping up the challenge to a “fitness boot camp” session, Vernon followed instructions to run five times around the parking lot.“I’d never run that far before. I didn’t think I could do it,” Vernon told The Monitor. But he did, and that made him wonder – what else could he do?Water aerobic instructor William Ritter, 25, happens to be a triathlete himself, and that intrigued Vernon, so he asked if Ritter would be interested in coaching him.Ritter was ready for the challenge. The first thing he taught him was running.After one month of coaching, Vernon ran his first 5K, hosted by the Mabank Band Boosters in April, and his confidence grew.“He did better than I expected. I was just trying to get him to finish,” Ritter said.More than ever, Vernon wanted to do a triathlon, but he needed a bike. Well, he ended up getting a bike frame and building his own, he said. After learning the basics of bicycling safety, the training began in earnest, with a warm-up, followed by 30 minutes of hard pedaling, 10 minutes easing up and then five minutes at his very fastest.Once Vernon was doing well at riding, Ritter added running to the bike ride. Ritter calls this “a brick.”
Courtesy PhotoLance Vernon at the finish of the Jack Weiss Iron Brothers Super Sprint July 12.
He’d ride 60 to 90 minutes, and then run for 10 minutes. As his endurance grew, so did his running time.Ritter also coached Vernon in proper cool-down techniques, to elevate his legs after a workout and take ice baths or cold showers.He also taught him to eat foods with denser nutritional value.The pair of them also attended triathlon clinics that practiced swimming techniques, such as how to have a fast start.The two also trained at the Cain Center’s pool in Athens and in Cedar Creek Lake with the use of buoys. “At first, I swam just along the shoreline between two buoys before I was ready to swim out and around the third one,” Vernon said.Like Forrest Gump, Vernon was willing to take and follow directions. If Ritter said run, he ran. He didn’t question his direction; he just tried to follow it the best he could.Ritter’s coaching followed a similar pattern to the one his own professional coach used with him.“I’m glad to know that I can successfully coach someone,” Ritter said. He hopes to get a triathlon-coaching certificate in the near future.Though Vernon had lost a lot of weight in his first year of gym membership, when he began to train for the triathlon he lost 15 more pounds, and now weighs a trim 170.“A year and a half ago, I had a big beer belly,” he laughed.How does he deal with the heat? “I sweat a lot,” he answers.Vernon added his body became acclimated to the summer temperatures.“I stay outside most all the weekend. I just got used to it,” he said. “Running is my hardest thing.”Ritter’s coaching now is directed at helping Vernon build up more strength in his legs.How does Vernon feel having reached his goal?“I feel excited about myself. It’s still sinking in,” he said less than a week after the event.Vernon has already set his sites on two more triathlons, one in August and another in September.His first one, the Iron Brothers Super Sprint at Joe Pool Lake in Grand Prairie July 12, was relatively short, with a 400-meter swim, an 11-mile bike ride and a two-mile run.The next two are a bit more challenging. If he needed any encouragement, he has it in his fellow gym rats.Everyone at the Olympic Center seems to know about his training and his accomplishment. Perhaps it will even make his fellow fitness trainees wonder, what might they accomplish?
This week I am coming back to running and my legs are shattered, in other words walking is a chore. This week some key workouts include 3x(4x50m all out, 4x100 at race pace, 200m swim) that was tough, the 50 meter all out sprints took a lot out of me, then a 20K TT in 30:12 for 24.64 mph which beats my time of two weeks ag0 by 20 seconds when I averaged 24.37 mph, my calves were cramping up the second half and I thought I might fall over the bike because I couldn't pedal, haha, it was a lot of work trying to go up the finishing hill when both of your calves are cramped up. Then yesterday did a 6x1 mile workout on 6.30 min. send offs, I don't even wanna write asbout it. My running doesn't look good right now, but hopefully it will come back I have a race in less than two weeks.