Friday, April 29, 2011

PFG Story– JohnP (Lord Of The Chainrings)

Previously Fat Guy Story

Growing up, I was a Starvin’ Marvin. Very tall, skronny lanky looking thing. I was so skinny and had such a dark tan that I closely resembled the poor kids in Ethiopia, it was that bad. I quit school to race mountain bikes. I spent a couple years pro and had Toronto won the Olympic bid I can assure you my life would have turned out much differently. Instead, I took the safer road and went back to school as I told myself ‘I can always come back to cycling later’.

Years went by, you know woman, school, work, life, the usual suspects and no return to cycling. I distinctly remember the first time I noticed something was wrong. I didn’t ride much so while I was out on my road bike on a hot summer’s day I sweated profusely. My jersey was a bit big for me and it soaked up my sweat and got heavy and baggy. While in the drop/aero bars my knees kept coming up and hitting the drooping jersey. A constant ‘thwack thwack thwack’ as I turned the pedals. Eventually I got annoyed and went to tuck my jersey into my shorts, except there was just one problem. It wasn’t the jersey. WHERE. THE. F*CK. DID. THAT. COME. FROM!? I was kneeing myself in the now beer gut, not the jersey. Damn.

My eating habits were horrific at best, and without exercising it was a steady gain over the years. Eventually I ran into an old highschool buddy and the first thing out of his mouth was ‘whoa buddy, you are huge!’. I loved it. No really, he meant that I looked ‘strong’ not fat. See, growing up I was a twig and hated it so FINALLY I have some bulk. My body hid the weight well and I was enjoying the ‘strong tall’ look. It was great, except there was nothing strong about me. I continued to eat myself into oblivion, I ate nothing healthy whatsoever.


Fran was shorter and
greener back then.

Being a tall guy there’s only a few stores that sell clothing that fits me so it was normal to shop at Big & Tall type stores. Except I used to only fit one of those two categories. I remember finally breaking into the Size 40 pants and that hurt. It bothered me in the back of my mind for the rest of that year and eventually I mustered up the courage to try to ride again.
So I did what I normally did ‘back in the day’. I signed up for a mountain bike race. I showed up the race thinking I would crush it. Not even 5 minutes into the race and I was done. My mind was still in race-mode saying ‘GO GO GO’ but my has-been overweight body had different plans. Remember the last time I was on a bike I was top of my game, winning all my races so this was a cold hard dose of reality. I came to terms with my phatness and vowed to get back to it in the spring.

I committed to mountain biking. I trained with the local race teams and it hurt immensely. I could barely hang on to their pace but I sucked it up and kept at it. It was a painful summer but by the end I was holding my own and 30lbs lighter. I looked forward to racing for fun the next year.

I take a lot more risks than the average person. I jump my bike off drops, skinnys, logs,phat111 jagged rock and crazy speeds. I have a ton of experience so I rarely crash. I’m comfortable taking the risks. Recreational Volleyball on the other hand, thats a whole other story. With all the risks I take I never expected to injure myself playing volleyball. I jumped sideways and heard a ‘pop’ in my knee. The surgeon delivered the bad news – my knees are “loosey-goosey” and I fully tore my ACL. I’ll never run, I shouldn’t cycle and if I want to be able to walk I need to baby my knees until I’m 55 so I can get knee replacement surgery. They are that bad. After the surgery I had a very difficult time with recovery. It took me at least 4 times longer to recover than most other people. For every bike the rode by I ate a bag of chips. For every bright sunny day that I couldnt ride I drink beer and ceasars and enjoyed my comfort foods. Depression. Don’t take your ability to walk for granted.  Sure enough I gained back ALL my weight, plus interest. Eventually a year of physio later I was able to almost exercise like a normal person.

TAKE TWO – The Low Point

I was determined to ride again. I’ve been here before, overweight, out of shape so all I have to do is ride my brains out and work hard and I’ll be back where I started. Except this time I was heavier, had a bummed knee and my muscles atrophied to the point where all I got is skin and bone literally.
I tried to ride with the local groups again anyways. Impossible. I repeatedly got dropped early in the rides and I didn’t have the strength to push the big gears. I remember how hard it was to lose the weight the first time, but now it seemed impossible. I could barely ride on my own, everything was beyond my fitness level. I got down on myself, frustrated, furious, I quit.


Then Rob happened. Here’s a guy that broke his back on a routine mountain bike ride. Parapalegic, never to walk again. Damn, who am I to complain? Imagine the challenges him and his family face, but they do it. They do it with a smile to boot, a beautiful family. This brings me back to my depression while recovering from surgery – I recall the million ‘If-Only’ things I promised myself. If Only my leg worked, I would do this and that and never complain again! Time to renew those promises to myself.
30lbs Lighter

I joined in the fundraiser at a 24hr Mountain Bike Race to raise money for Rob and the Canadian Parapalegic Association. Here is where we formed a friendly rivalry and clydesdale race team determined to lose weight and set a BHAG (Big Hairy Ass Goal) to win the next 24hr race. I regained just enough fitness to join back with some of my old riding clubs. We took 2nd place and we all dropped a ton of weight. Surrounding myself with other Fat-Bastards(Race Team Name) and drawing from each others experience and some friendly rivalry was just what I needed to help motivate me back to shape.

Riding with the Brace

60lbs Lighter


The next big thing. A BHAG to take me out of the clydesdale category for good. Having never seen a triathlon in my life, not knowing the distances, never run in my life, haven`t swam in 15 years, we signed up anyways. Now 60lbs lighter and healthier than I have ever been in my life, I survived Ironman Muskoka 70.3 The next year it was only natural to up the ante, so here I am training for
 Ironman Lake Placid.
Arguably the toughest thing I’ve trained for my entire life.
Commit or die tryin.
First Triathlon
IM Muskoka 70.3

My Pit Crew and my loving wife
who makes me the happiest PFG EVAR!!


  1. Wow Epic story. Personally I think mountain biking is way more dangerous than playing ice hockey

  2. I am so glad you got the story done! slow day at the office? Seriously though, you don't look fat in any of those pictures..

  3. I was 230lbs - my body hides it well! Sometimes being tall ain't so bad :)

  4. 230? THATS IT, booooooo! Haha. No, seriously Adena needs glasses, you looked like a fat ass in those pictures. I could see every beer and every pizza in your face!

    Feels good to write the story huh?

    Now to maintain, seems all of us PFGs have issues balancing that damn pizza and beer problem haha.

    Never knew about the knee story, you need to train smart man, no balls to the wall with running, keep your paces down and just survive the run, no need to screw yourself over even more!

    Keep up the good work! Send it to Bryan to put on the PFG blog.

  5. Great great story!!! You've overcome much and should be proud!

    I agree with Adena don't look fat at all, well except maybe in that flowered shirt. :)

  6. Excellent and well written story John! I did not know that you had such an adventurous life.
    I envy you for your determination. Based on the amount of training you're doing I am sure that you're going to do great at Lake Placid.

    And, yes, don't forget to send your story to Bryan to put it on the PFG website.

  7. I never thought you were phat.. but now that you are a pencil and look back at these pic all I can do is laugh.. Luv u! ;)
    I love Julies comment..... 'you don't look fat, well except maybe in that flower shirt' rofl.
    You are going to do so well at IMLP.. you are so dedicated and I wish the motivation would come so easily for me.

  8. Really good story - thanks for sharing!

    I hadn't realized you'd been a pro mtb'er!



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