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  • Bob French/Amy Sotis

How I Became an Ironman Against All Odds

"Against All Odds": A story of obesity, weight loss, struggles, and amazing accomplishments

Bob French Ironman

Bob French, of International Falls, MN, shares his epic weight loss story at Luminaries Retreat in January 2017

Bob's story is one that you most likely will not emulate in your life. However, just because you may not set out to accomplish the completion of an Ironman Triathlon, does not mean you won't benefit from Bob's story. Be greatly inspired to do something new in the physical fitness realm this year!

Even though Bob was only in his early 30s, he had many medical conditions plaguing his life because of the combination of obesity and smoking. His wife, Molly, inspired him to want to make positive changes in his life, and as he sought out gastric bypass surgery, he had to lose a certain percentage of body weight to show he could control his eating. In the process of doing that via the Couch to 5K program and MyFitnessPal, Bob discovered he really did enjoy the changes in his life because of his efforts at weight loss so there was no need for surgery. Instead of losing the 20 lbs he was "supposed to" to get the surgery, he had lost 40 lbs! Goodbye gastric bypass, hello athlete!

As Bob worked out, tracked what he ate and drank, quit smoking, and had real tangible goals through the races he signed up for, over 130 pounds slowly melted away. Diabetes left him, TV watching left him, and most of all, he had energy to be with his growing family! It took a couple of years for all the weight to fall off and in the meantime Bob was slowly realizing he was good at what he was going and he kept pushing the envelope with what his body could do.

Although Bob had never been a swimmer, he felt compelled to sign up for a triathlon. This consists of a swim, a bike, and a run. He was hooked! His first triathlon was a shorter distance one, but he began to dream of the epic distance.

Although most people would consider those shorter distance triathlons "good enough", Bob took a huge risk and signed up for the Wisconsin Ironman Triathlon in September 2015. However, soon after signing up for the Ironman, a year away, his only brother committed suicide, devastating Bob and his entire family.

A slideshow remembrance of Bob's brother, Chris, who he lost to suicide in November 2015.

Bob used the grief of his brother's passing to begin raising awareness for suicide and raising money for programs that prevent suicide and offer counseling for suicide grief. Pictured below are a few ways Bob used his training for Ironman to do this: A 5K for suicide awareness and the names of supporters who donated written on his cycling jersey during his Ironman.

September 2016, the time had come to do the race of all races - the Ironman. First, you swim 2.4 miles with thousands of elbows and legs swirling around you. Most people would find it difficult to walk or run 2.4 miles without stopping, so imagine what swimming 2.4 miles in open water with two thousand of your closest friends would feel like!

Triathlon Swim Ironman Wisconsin

Next up, merely a 112 mile bike ride. And this is no joke in Madison, either, with plenty of rolling hills and a loop of 56 miles you have to do twice.

Ironman bike course in Madison, WI

The final task on the docket for the 16 hour day is a marathon - 26.2 miles of unrelenting pavement.

Ironman Marathon

Bob French finished something that many that day did not - an official Ironman - 140.6 miles!

What about Bob? If he could do a race like this, certainly you could too. Okay, perhaps that is an overstatement! However, if Bob could do this, which he did, as a formerly 355 pound man, you can certainly overcome your fear to try something new this year! We believe in you! Bob is already signed up for another Ironman in the summer of 2017

Complied by Amy Sotis, owner, Luminaries Retreat, LLC.

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