Peter's Journey to IRONMAN with Playtri
Playtri athlete Peter Balyta finished his first IRONMAN at Florida recently, and he sat down with us to share his experience.
Peter, this was your first IM - what were you most nervous about going into the race? What part were you most excited about?
I was most nervous about the swim because all of my swim training leading up to the IM was while being tied to a tree in my backyard. (i.e. tethered swimming in my pool). I recall looking out at those buoys the day before thinking they looked so far away. BUT as soon I got into the ocean, all of my nerves went away. I love swimming in the ocean and I was in the ocean - so I forced myself to stay present and enjoy MY swim.
I was most excited about getting to do my first IM in 2020 despite everything going on. At athlete check-in, I realized that my dream of completing an IM by the time I was 50 was becoming a very real possibility. It was a commitment that I made to myself many years ago. My dad died when he was 50 years old of a massive heart attack, his second in two years. I was a 20-year-old kid at the time and forced to learn an excruciatingly painful lesson on how short and fragile life can be. My father was a copper miner, and worked in mines that no one else would to make ends meet - he was also a champion Canadian weightlifter in his prime, even qualifying for the Olympic trials. In addition, he was one of the best hunters and fishermen in our province, which ensured my mother, siblings and I would have enough food in the freezer to make it through the frigid, Canadian winters. My dad taught me the most about what hard work, determination and grit look like. Unfortunately though, as he aged, my dad developed some unhealthy habits that contributed to his untimely death. While I realize he didn’t lead the healthiest lifestyle in his final years, I am also well aware that we share the same genes, and I don’t want what happened to him to happen to me or my children. Shortly after my dad’s passing, I laced up my sneakers and started running for the first time in my life. Through the years, I’ve added CrossFit, swimming and cycling to the mix and discovered that my real passion lies in triathlon. For me, it is less about winning, or even the event itself, and more about the physical and mental journey of preparing for an endurance race.
So to celebrate my 50th birthday, I stepped up to the starting line of the my first IM.
It was a wonderful journey to get there. I also got to raise over $49K for my favorite nonprofit - Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas - along the way.
What an indredible journey! What were the top three things you did on race day that you would do again at your next IM?
Stayed calm before the start.
Stayed present during each segment and quietly celebrated moving onto the next event.
Took time to enjoy the finish - to really let it sink in.
What are the top three things you would do differently?
Skip the full wardrobe changes in transitions.
Change my relationship with running. I plan to silence the negative self-talk in my head and look at running, differently. While I tend to joke about my short, slow legs, that stops now.
Get some swimming lessons. I see people swimming along the surface of the water making it look like they are just gliding effortlessly. I notice that when I swim harder, I actually go slower. That tells me it’s time to get some swim lessons. I’m signed up for my first lesson with Playtri Aquatics Coach Gabriel on Friday.
What was going through your mind as you approached the finish line?
As I approached the finish line, I was in the a state of absolute gratitude for being able to cross it. I was embracing so many memories and emotions. It felt like my dad was there as I crossed the finish line. When I finished shortly after 10 p.m., I looked up at the sky and gave him a smile to make sure he knew we had accomplished this together. I thought about my sister who recently won her battle with cancer and mom who was still fighting to cross her finish line (last treatments) one week later. I thought about how fortunate I was to have such an incredible family. I was also grateful for how the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas (and everyone that supported my GSNETX fundraiser) cheered me along every step of the way.
How did Playtri contribute to your success on race day?
My first introduction to Playtri was with Head Coach Morgan Hoffman, who helped me understand the importance of Nutrition and Hydration. I attended her live Nutrition & Hydration 101 course, and she opened my eyes to a path towards more energy and better recovery by making quick changes to what I was eating. After embracing carbs instead of limiting carbs, I felt so much better and had significantly fewer injuries. I was also connected with Playtri Coach Amari Holmes who was able to put me on a training plan to achieve my fitness and triathlon goals despite and a very challenging work/travel schedule. I never thought I would have enough time to train for Ironman and Ironman 70.3 events. Thank you!
Peter, congrats again on your accomplishments - both finishing your first IRONMAN, and using that experience to make a significant contribution to the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas. We’re proud to call you a Playtri athlete!