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Papermen debut at mini-tri, issue challenge

August 14, 2014 - Andy Flynn
This week: 404 lbs.

Last week: 395 lbs.

Start (Dec. 17): 470 lbs.

Total lost: 66 lbs.

I’ve got the kind of body that when someone sees me about to enter the lake for a swim, he says to the person next to him, “Who told him it’s OK to take your shirt off in public?”

Oh, the rolls of fat, the mass of human flesh, all out there for everyone to see. There’s no more hiding underneath a shirt when you’re standing on the shore of Mirror Lake in the back of a pack of swimmers about to start the High Peaks Cyclery Mini-Triathlon. It’s just you, a pair of swim trunks, a blue cap, goggles and your pride, or what’s left of it. But that’s where I stood Monday night, ankle deep in water, listening to Brian Delaney give a 15-minute pre-race briefing, hoping that every word would be his last so I could hide my body underneath the water while I attempted a 400-yard swim.

I didn’t think of the taking-your-shirt-off part of the mini-triathlon when I came up with the hair-brained idea to enter the final race of the season with a newly formed team from the Lake Placid News, affectionately called the Papermen. Since I haven’t been on a bike in 24 years, the 12-mile bike leg was out of the question, and since I could only walk the 3-mile foot race, running was not an option. So the swim was my only choice. Now I needed a cyclist and a runner.

First I recruited our sales representative and only other staff member working in the Lake Placid News office on Mill Hill, Dan Cash. He’s an avid mountain biker, so I thought, “This is a perfect match for the bike.” After a brief sales pitch about the mini-tri being a team-building exercise, he was on board.

“It’s not that we excel in the things we are doing,” Dan said about the bike leg. “It’s just that we really don’t like the other two things.”

For the run, I approached the Lake Placid News sports editor, Morgan Ryan, who works out of our sister newspaper’s office, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise in Saranac Lake. He’s competed in triathlons before, so I knew he could run. After my spiel about a team-building exercise, he was also on board.

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We had a team!

Now we needed a name. A 30-minute brainstorming session resulted in a pile of yellow Post-it Notes with possibilities, but it was the finish line at this year’s Ironman Lake Placid triathlon that hand-delivered “Papermen” to me. Every few seconds, the announcer said the finishers were an Ironman. “Brian Delaney, of Lake Placid, you are an Ironman!” Over and over, I couldn’t get “You are an Ironman” out of my head. Soon I wished I was finishing so the announcer could say my name. Then it hit me. At the end of the mini-triathlon, I could hear the words, “Andy Flynn, you are a Paperman!” That gave me a chuckle and a burst of energy, so I pitched the name to my teammates, and they quickly adopted it. Soon after, Dan reminded me that I was the swimmer, not the runner. Morgan was finishing the race and would hear those words, not me.

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Just before this year’s Ironman, I interviewed High Peaks Cyclery co-owners and mini-triathlon coordinators Brian and Karen Delaney about how people can break into the sport of triathlon. Brian has competed in every Ironman race in Lake Placid since it began in 1999, and Karen is a regular competitor in the mini-triathlon races, so they have plenty of experience. They’ve been hosting the mini-tris for 30 years, so they’ve seen thousands of people from around the world get hooked on the sport. The Delaneys gave me a thorough overview on how beginners can get started, and they were the ones who inspired me to try the mini-triathlon.

With some knowledge in hand, I dug out my 4X swim trunks, which now fit because I’ve lost about 70 pounds and dropped down from 6X shorts, and tried the swim course on Mirror Lake. You enter the water near the entrance of the tennis courts and swim around the third orange buoy near the right side of the shore and return. This was the first time I’d been swimming in 11 years. Aside from some breathing difficulty and my trunks coming off in the middle of the swim, it was a success. I finished with an estimated time of 25 minutes.

So I tried it again, with a very tight drawstring and new goggles, and finished in 20 minutes. The next time it was 19 minutes, then 18. I was slow and had no technique, but I was finishing, and that’s all I needed to do to tag my teammate, Dan, on shore so he could start the bike leg of the race.

After a hike one day, I found I had more energy, so I changed into my swim trunks and practiced the course at Mirror Lake. I found that it was a great warmup, especially for my lungs, so that's what I did Monday before the mini-triathlon. I hiked a 2.6-mile loop at Henry's Woods.

The swim went well. The most challenging part was figuring out how to get the blue, rubber swim cap on my head. Imagine a tall person taking both hands, placing them on your head and squeezing as tight as possible. That’s how it felt once I got it on. When I took off my glasses, I couldn’t see. And I put on the goggles, which act as suction cups, so I’ve got constant pressure on my eyeballs. Shirtless, blind, pressure on my head and eyeballs, I was ready for a swim, hoping I wouldn’t get kicked in the face when I entered the water. The aroma of fried food from the Lake Placid Pub & Brewery across the street didn’t help my breathing, but it was a good incentive to finish. Swimming always makes me hungry.

I expected to be last out of the water, and I was, wobbling up the shore like a drunkard with spaghetti legs to tag Dan. But I did improve my time with a personal record of 17:23.

I was a Paperman, even though nobody said it.

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Dan is active in the local mountain bike scene, so he was confident he could finish the 12-mile road race with a good time. The mini-triathlon was Dan’s first organized race.

“Maybe field day back in elementary school,” Dan said. “That’s as close as I got to organized races.”

Aside from his regular mountain biking trips, Dan didn’t train for Monday night’s race, although he did try out the course once with his old road bike. At 46 minutes, he was confident he could improve his time with a better bike. So he rented a road bike from High Peaks Cyclery and set a goal to finish in less than 40 minutes.

“I like riding bikes, and I thought it would be a fun opportunity,” Dan said. “And it was fun. It’s a very friendly atmosphere at the mini-tri. Everybody’s very supportive, positive and low-key. Not a lot of people were tightly wound.”

Dan wasn’t nervous about his ride. He knew he could accomplish the team’s unlofty goal: finish. Although he was slightly worried about pushing too hard at the beginning and running out of energy, that didn’t happen. And he’d certainly encourage others to try the mini-triathlon.

“I would definitely recommend the team approach. That’s the way to go,” Dan said.

The main challenge for Dan was the mental switch from a casual mountain bike ride to an organized road bike race.

“It’s an endurance sport, which is very different than riding mountain bikes because when you’re mountain biking, it tends to be more explosive energy,” Dan said. “You’re pushing up a hill, or you’re going over an obstacle. ... (The triathlon) is a different type of riding because it’s endurance-based. You’re just out there pedaling. The hill’s not sharp and abrupt and steep; it’s just long and steady.”

Dan’s most memorable moment of the race began on state Route 86, where he passed another cyclist wearing an Ironman shirt.

“He came up next to me on River Road, and I started following his pace,” Dan said. “He said, ‘Is this pace OK for you? It works for me.’ It was probably a bit fast, but I said, ‘Yeah, it’s fine.’ So it was nice to have that camaraderie out there, and then we get to Route 73 and he goes left instead of right. And he said, ‘I’m just out on a ride. See you later. Good luck with the race.’ I didn’t realize he wasn’t one of the racers. So that was pretty funny.”

Dan finished with a personal record of 40:34.

Dan Cash, you are a Paperman!

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Even though he was a mini-triathlon newbie, Morgan is well versed in the organized endurance sports scene, having competed in a few triathlons including the Tinman in Tupper Lake, two marathons and many running races. He’s been trail running this summer but hasn’t been active on a regular basis. Although Morgan didn’t train for Monday’s 3-mile run, it doesn’t mean it was easy.

“This year, I’ve been pretty out of shape,” Morgan said. “It was good to get back into the racing scene. ... It was a kick in the butt to get me moving and back on track ... to an exercise routine.”

Morgan enjoyed the team aspect of the race.

“I was thinking during the run that I had to try to do good for my teammates,” he said. “Andy did it, and Dan was fast. What’s my excuse? And at the end, I was thinking, ‘Man, I’ve got to get into shape.’”

For Morgan, participation in the mini-triathlon was like an invitation to get back into an active lifestyle, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear him say that I inspired him.

“I read your columns, and I say, ‘Why am I sitting on my butt when Andy is totally crushing it?’” Morgan said. “I’m watching myself putting on weight and getting out of shape, and here you are doing something totally out of your element.”

Morgan beat his expected time of 27 minutes by finishing in 26:39, and he plans on getting back into an exercise routine.

I took great pleasure in announcing at the finish line, “Morgan Ryan, you are a Paperman!”

The future

When the results were posted on Tuesday morning, I asked Morgan if High Peaks Cyclery got our time correct. I had expected to come in last place, but we finished 12th among 14 teams at 1:24:36.

Dan, Morgan and I can’t wait until next summer to tackle another High Peaks Cyclery Mini-Triathlon. So we’re challenging the Adirondack Daily Enterprise to a mini-tri duel and hope they can come up with a team to rival the Lake Placid News Papermen. We doubt it.

I can talk all the smack I want, the simple fact is the mini-triathlon is not really about competition; it’s about fun. On Monday before the event, I overheard one man say to a woman, “Remember, it’s not a race; it’s just another workout.”

What surprised Dan the most was the casual atmosphere.

“It was a lot more fun than I thought it was going to be,” he said.

After our team finished, I thanked Brian and Karen Delaney, and they both asked the same question, “Did you have fun?”

Yes. I did have fun, and I can’t wait to do it again. After all, like Dan said, “We’ve got to justify those shirt purchases.”


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Blog Photos

The Lake Placid News Papermen triathlon team, from left, are Sports Editor Morgan Ryan (run), Editor Andy Flynn (swim) and Sales Representative Dan Cash (bike). They competed for the first time in the High Peaks Cyclery Mini-Triathlon Monday, Aug. 11 and finished in 1:24:36. (Photo — Michelle Brown)