Swim, Bike, Run. Dad.

The Hy-Vee Triathlon will be Caleb Pike’s Father’s Day gift to himself.

Caleb Pike’s weight hovered near 290 pounds. He ran out of breath each time he bent over to tie his shoes. He also had a 6-month-old daughter. And a gnawing fear. “I didn’t think I could be a very good dad to her if I couldn’t keep up with her,” he says.

Pike’s desire to be there for his daughter and wife-to-be helped him dump some bad habits, defeat doubt, test limits and set goals that include the 2010 Hy-Vee Triathlon. “I’m not worried about placing,” he says humbly. “I’m doing it to be able to say I did it.” Even the suggestion that Pike could finish a triathlon would have been laughable only a year ago.

Pike, a Des Moines graphic artist, and fiance´ Nicole Heinkel decided in late 2008 to “try to lose a few pounds” via a conditioning program advertised at a local martial arts academy. “It was a New Year’s resolution-type thing,” he said.

But the new year began with one huge obstacle: him. The trainers told Pike he was in no shape to start a strenuous exercise regimen. In fact, it could kill him. “I was devastated,” Pike says. “I told everyone I knew that I was going to do this, and now they were going to think I backed out.” That embarrassment only fueled his motivation.

He lost 25 pounds on his own, improved his diet and returned to the gym, determined to be accepted for the program. His first assignment: Run a mile. “I didn’t want anything to do with running,” Pike says. He lumbered to a 13-minute finish.

Rather than quit, he melted off more weight and in few weeks cut four minutes from his time. He remembers thinking: This running thing isn’t so bad after all. “I found that pushing myself was something I could actually do,” Pike says. So he pushed. And he quickly lost another 20 pounds.

His interest in triathlon was sparked when he watched the Ironman World Championship on television. “Just seeing people push themselves to the limit made me know I could do it,” he says. “They showed a woman who was 75 years old. If she could do, I could.” More running. More working out. Better diet. Better father.

Pike’s weight dipped to 187 pounds. His body fat dropped from 50 percent to 15 percent. He ran his first half-marathon last fall. Then he signed up for spin and swim classes to prepare for the triathlon. “Before this, I really didn’t know how unhappy I was and how bad I felt,” he says. “Life is so much better now.”

He’ll be in West Des Moines on June 13 to compete in the Hy-Vee event for Team in Training, a fund-raising group that runs, swims and bikes on behalf of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Team in Training provides coaching, support and motivation for athletes, who return the favor by raising money through sponsorships. “Team in Training provides that camaraderie I knew I’d need,” Pike says. “And doing it for them will make it that much more fulfilling.”

To donate to Team in Training:
(515) 210-6801

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