‘An Emotional Day’

His mother’s dying wish was that he get into shape—so a Denver man started training, lost 65 pounds, and competed in a tough autumn triathlon in California with his daughter.

jerry-triathlon

ROAD WARRIOR SCHLOFFMAN DURING THE BIKE PORTION OF THE MALIBU TRIATHLON. Photo by Rich Cruse

Most people take on triathlons to get their bodies in tip-top shape or for the endorphin rush. Jerry Schloffman, a 49-year-old native of Aurora, did his last month for his mother, Sandi Jones. She was diagnosed with cancer in March 2017 and passed away last Dec. 31. Her final wish was not to travel to Europe or see the Vatican (as Schloffman had planned)—all she wanted was for her son to get back into shape and compete in a triathlon with his 24-year-old triathlete daughter, Cheyenne. She mentioned this to him a few months before she died; two days later, Jerry met with a Denver-area trainer and said, “You’ve got one year to get me ready to do the Malibu Triathlon.” He started working out six days a week and trained hard for almost a year, losing 65 pounds. With Jones on their minds and in their hearts, Schloffman and Cheyenne competed in this year’s Nautica Malibu Triathlon in Malibu, Calif., on Sept. 16. We talked to Schloffman about his preparation and motivation.

Why this specific triathlon?
It was my mom’s favorite race to watch and my daughter’s favorite race to run. Every time my daughter ran Malibu, my mom was there to watch her. She loved the location and the scenery. When we decided how we were going to honor her, it just made sense. And the race is also a big deal; it’s the race you want to go to as a triathlete. It’s exclusive and hard to get into. There’s a prestige to being on the podium at the Nautica Malibu.

Tell me a little bit about the course.
We did the classic distance race. It’s a half-mile open swim at Zuma Beach (which made me a little nervous because I’d never done a triathlon in surf before), followed by a 17-mile bike ride up U.S. 1 on the coast (I’d done the ride with my daughter before and it’s breathtaking) and finally a four-mile run along the beach. I was hoping my training in Colorado would help me, from an altitude standpoint.

What was your training like?
The first focus was getting into good enough cardiovascular shape to build up to my training. Then the last six months were a variety of different things, generally six days a week, and usually two of the days had two workouts: one core class per week, two boot camp classes (focused on strength and cardio) per week, two classes with my trainer per week, and then two to three days of cardio on top of that, plus yoga once a week. I also did three other triathlons this summer: the Lake to Lake Sprint Triathlon in Loveland, the Seafair Triathlon in Seattle, and the Steamboat Springs Triathlon.

Now that you’ve done several, what are your thoughts on triathlons?
It’s an incredibly addicting sport. Once you do one, you immediately start looking for the next one. It’s the sense of accomplishment of finishing it in all three phrases. There are very few amateurs (like me) who are great at all three phases. Somebody struggles with something, and that’s what makes triathlons so challenging. You get out of the water and jump on a bike and ride hard, and then you start running and that first quarter mile is tough. Your legs are Jell-O. I guess that’s why I love the sport—it requires a lot out of you.

How did the big race go?
I finished in the middle of my age group at two hours and four minutes. During the swim, it was all about survival; I was just trying to make it through. The bike route was harder than I remember. But coming up on that last mile of the run was when my legs really started hurting. I knew I couldn’t start walking, though. In that moment, I was reminded of why I was there—for my mom. I knew the pain I felt was nothing compared to what she endured, and if she could go through that pain, I knew I could push forward.

What’s next for you in the triathlon world?
My hope is that next year I can run a couple of the same races I ran this year, so I can compare and improve. To go from 300 pounds to being able to compete in this race in a year’s time … it would be dishonorable to go back home and not train or continue to work out. My goal is to keep my mom in my mind and continue to run triathlons.

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