Becoming an Ironman – Firefighter Joe Van Veldhuizen lost 45 pounds to become an Ironman.
Becoming an Ironman – Van Veldhuizen and his daughter, Bri, the night of her high school prom in 2011.
Becoming an Ironman – Van Veldhuizen now likes to swim 30 minutes to an hour a couple times a week. He says it's an easy way to tune out from the rest of the world and relax.
Becoming an Ironman – "I'm not a young man anymore. I started this stuff later in life. And when I had the extra weight, my joints hurt after longer training sessions," says Van Veldhuizen, 45, as he recounts his weight loss journey.
Becoming an Ironman – "I upped everything. I always tried to do it very gradually. And not go from 0 to 100 miles, just like that, because when people hurt, they won't continue doing something," Van Veldhuizen says.
Becoming an Ironman – From his slow and steady approach, Joe says, "I found that my body adapted, those pains weren't as significant anymore. I could now do those distances required and the training. And I just kept on moving forward."
Becoming an Ironman – Van Veldhuizen trained for the Ironman alongside friend Joe Gum.
Becoming an Ironman – The beginning of the Ironman can be tough, especially in open-water swimming. Van Veldhuizen says it's like "a washing machine where people are pounding over each other, swimming over each other."
Becoming an Ironman – Gum caught up to Van Veldhuizen midway through the second lap of the 56-mile bicycle course. He recounts "the weather was just about perfect. It wasn't super-hot, but it was clear and not a lot of wind."
Becoming an Ironman – Van Veldhuizen kept focused on the race, attuned to how his body was feeling. "You keep pushing forward and try to make sure that you're monitoring your body and you're taking in your food and your fluids well enough that you're not going to have something physically break as far as being dehydrated or running out of fuel," he said.
Becoming an Ironman – Van Veldhuizen gives a thumbs-up as he gets closer to the finish line.
Becoming an Ironman – Van Veldhuizen and Gum pushed each other throughout the Ironman. "You don't do these things alone," the firefighter said.