MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Michael Baker was inspired by several sources to undertake the challenge of a triathlon. Since completing his first, he was worked vigorously to one day become an ironman.
I grew up in what I like to think in between cornfields. Very small town, USA. I worked on cars with my dad and grandpa.
It’s funny. The show, the Biggest Loser, I watch with my wife. The host of the show does triathlons. She’s a mother of two, but not the typical build athlete. She was one of my inspirations; if she can do it, I can do it.
I think I have more triathlete pages liked on Facebook than military ones.
Another inspiration for me was a man named Shane Helman. I met him while on recruiting duty. He’s a little bit older than me, served in the Marine Corps during Desert Storm, and loved it. We share some of the same passions, and he started running marathons at the age of 42.
So I said, if Shane can do it at 42, and here I was at 31, I can do it. I picked triathlons because I was always fond of cycling, and could do the running. The swim was my biggest obstacle because I was comfortable in the water but not a strong swimmer.
I started swimming routinely during lunch as many days as I could.
I met Don Tolbert, very nice and helpful guy. He taught me effective swimming, and I learned how to swim. With his help and guidance on getting the technique right, I became a very effective swimmer.
That was it. My wife just said go do it. She registered me for the Lake Havasu Bucket List Triathlon. My first one. I completely boogered it, but it was neat to do.
I met interesting people, from pros, to amateurs, to guys in better shape than me and some in worse shape than me.
I got hooked. Since then, I’ve done the Mission Bay in October, and the Tour De Big Bear; a 50-mile road bike around Big Bear, Calif.
I did better on the Mission Bay triathlon. Out of 1,600 competitors, I placed 760th, which I think is better than my first one where I placed second to last.
Mission Bay was my favorite so far. It was my first swim in a bay. I learned very quickly to keep my mouth closed due to the salt water. I was very nervous. With feet and hands flailing everywhere. It was nerve-wrecking, but as soon as the gun went off, all of my nerves turned into energy.
I went for 500 meters. I swam over top people, around people, beside people, anything to find my way through the crowd. I felt good getting out of the water about 11 minutes later.
We rolled right into our first transition, getting on the bike. I can remember running and stumbling over myself getting the wetsuit off because time was everything. Then my wife said relax, and I slowed down to just get it off and jump on the bike.
I was really strong on the bike. I passed a few people and only got passed by a couple. I was thinking that it’s okay because I had beat them out of the water.
After 15 miles on the bike, we did the last transition. I could hear my wife and kids yelling go daddy go. It was time for three miles.
Me and running don’t get along, but we have this respect that I know I have to do it so I do it.
I saw a funny sign that made me laugh because it said, “Keep running, there’s a zombie behind you.” I had a lot of fun that day.
This triathlon was huge, not like my first one. When I finally finished, I heard the announcement say "Congratulations Michael Baker, you are now a triathlete."
I thought it was the coolest thing in the world, getting that recognition and applause.
I love it, and I don’t know why I put myself through it because I can’t move the next day. I guess I do it for me, because I want to do it, and I’m getting better at it.
When you cross the finish line, everything goes away for a few seconds. I didn’t finish first, I’m not second, but I’m finishing. That’s all I want to do.
I continue to work on it. I’m my biggest critic and I always want to get better.
Don’t give up. I wanted to run a triathlon, and I did it. I didn’t quit on it. On my first race, the only guy I beat was 58 years old. Even during that race, I thought about how much I wanted to just sit down, but I kept going.
One of my big goals is to do an Iron Man before I’m 40. It’s the same swim-bike-run event, but a 2.4 mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2 mile run. I want to hear the words, Michael Baker, you are an Iron Man. I’ve got eight years to train for it.
The triathlon experience has taught me patience. I’m not the fastest person, but I will not stop, and I will not say I’m done. I will finish what I started.
I think of my own life as a triathlon. I’ve got triathlons, my family, and the Marine Corps. It works out well. I love what I’ve done and where I’ve been. Don’t let anyone get in the way of your dreams.