Friday, May 17, 2013

Original, Unedited (and Edited) Richard Tramm Story

Spring, Texas’ Richard Tramm doesn’t have the 147,103 followers on Twitter that two-time Ironman champion Chris McCormack has.

But the 50 or so that were following on Friday, November 9 quietly witnessed Tramm draw a line in the virtual sand.

“Ironman Texas 2013 goes off in 190 days and I plan to be there and ready to go on race day,” tweeted the happily married father of two grown daughters.

Not much of a reach from the Ironman athlete who reduced his time the most – by almost three hours (from 16:35:49 to 13:41:06) -- of the 243 who completed the first two Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas.

Quite another thing being just two weeks removed from a four-day ICU stay – the result of being hit from behind on a training ride by a vehicle’s side mirror.

The half Iron distance race that was two weeks away – with hopes of a fifth straight PR -- was dashed by at least five broken ribs (with many more bruised), a clavicle with four breaks which required surgery and a broken scapula.

Any self-pity, though, was left in the ditch where Tramm was found broken and battered, said his training partner, Karen Felicidario.

“I knew that the Oilman race was out, and I feared that perhaps all racing could be,” said Felicidario, the 100-mile trail finisher who will be attempting her first Ironman on Saturday.  “But as I visited Richard in the hospital, I could not help but notice the positive and encouraging outlook he has for his fellow teammates and others he was now imparting on himself.”

One which was cultivated from a journey which saw Tramm beginning to transform himself near the end of 2006 after a failed promise to get healthier after turning 40 the preceding Christmas.

“I had my annual checkup with my doctor,” he said.  “I kind of got that standard talk, ‘You’re over weight …’  He considered me pre-diabetic and went through some of the things I could expect if I developed diabetes as a result.”

Although Tramm recalls that he’s not certain, for quite some time, where his weight was, the number 290 wasn’t just the name of the highway to Austin.

“It helped me realize that it wasn’t the direction I wanted if I wanted to be around to see my daughters and one day their children grow up,” he added.

Yet over the next two years, he diligently progressed from the local 5Ks and 10Ks and beyond the half marathon culminating in the 30K in December 2008 where he ran the last 10K of the race with Heather Herrick.

Sporting the shirt of a triathlon Tramm had hoped to do one day, the Austin native sprouted the triathlon seed that Tammie Manchester, a fellow runner and triathlete from The Woodlands, had planted earlier that summer.

“I was running the weekly long run with The Woodlands Running Club and every now and then I would hear a story from someone,” Tramm said.  “Until then, I didn’t even know the concept of competitive triathlon even existed.

“I knew that Tammie had done it.  She was the first person that gave me any serious encouragement.”

In a year’s time, that support would buoy him from the community CB&I sprint triathlon, which starts in the same waters as Saturday’s Ironman Texas, through two half Ironman finishes (Ironman 70.3 Austin and Ironman 70.3 Texas).

With Galveston’s much flatter bike course and just over five months to prepare, Tramm believed that he had more than a six-minute improvement (from 7:58:38 to 7:52:07) in the tank.

“I knew that I could do better, but I didn’t quite know how to get there,” he said.

An Ironman was a logical thought progression and with one in Tramm’s back yard to be announced any day soon, he began contacting a number of groups and coaches.

He settled on The Woodlands’ Michelle LeBlanc, the founder of OutRival Racing, the official coach of Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas.

“I just felt like she was the right match,” he said.  “We talked for about an hour and I felt like she was the person that could get me to where I could realize my greatest personal potential.”

Tramm’s numbers on his initial athlete questionnaire might not have foretold that potential, LeBlanc acknowledged, but he quickly began to realize it.

“As an athlete, I learned long ago that sport isn’t about winning or losing,” she said.  “It’s about giving your best effort and being content with where that puts you in relation to others.  Richard was an example to me to transcend that belief into my coaching.”

Improvement is about making the right adjustments – for both the athlete and the coach.

“I enjoy working with athletes who give their best regardless of their times and finishing places,” she added.  “And Richard has turned out to be one of my most improved and one of the hardest, most disciplined (triathletes) that I’ve worked with.”

Tramm’s enthusiasm for triathlon has not only guided him through two Ironman finishes and a recovery from injury that has been nothing short of remarkable, but he started last year’s Ironman Texas at 175 pounds – just less than 40 percent of his weight when he started late in 2006.

“I was a little dubious as good as an athlete as Michelle was and is, but I’ve not regretted that decision to this day,” he said.  “If I had not gotten with her, I don’t think I would have gotten the improvement out of my training that I have now.”

And it was that fitness gained that he was fearful he would lose, leading him to closely confide in the orthopedic surgeon at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands during his second day in the hospital.

“He wasn’t sure that it was going to be possible,” Tramm said.  “He said if I recover well, and do what it takes to heal, recover and restore body, there’s no reason that it isn’t a possibility.  That became my driving motivation.”

Although cleared to begin full training in mid-February – a month later than in his previous two Ironman Texas, the 47-year-old finished Ironman 70.3 Texas in Galveston in early April in 6:13:04 – short of his pre-injury PR, but another brick in his long road of perseverance and tenacity.

“For the first time in a long time, I’m not coming into a race with any pre-conceived notions of what my pace will be or what my time goals are,” Tramm explained saying that his training has included more base work and less intensity with a goal to complete the distance.

“Because of my recovery, I’m not sure how my body is going to respond.  I’m going to follow a very basic race plan, according to my heart rate, and a solid nutrition plan.”

And when the gun goes off Saturday morning at Northshore Park, he says he’s “100% committed to completing that course on that day and at this point, it doesn’t matter what I’ve been through.  It will be to go – and finish.”

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