Winning a losing battle

By Richard Greene | Published Thursday, September 30, 2010

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REWARDING FINISH - Dee Faubus is congratulated by his wife Sandra after finishing the Wise-Tri triathlon at Lake Bridgeport. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

All of his life, Dee Faubus has been in a battle with himself and weight.

A busy lifestyle, heredity and factors that he can’t explain put the employee of the Wise County Emergency Medical Service on the verge of losing the war as he tipped the scales at 330 pounds.

But, as he made the final turn to the finish line during the Wise-Tri triathlon at Lake Bridgeport earlier this month, he came to the realization that the battle was now in his favor.

“It was emotional,” Faubus said about completing his first sprint triathlon after losing nearly 100 pounds. “Just crossing the finish line, that simple act, had a huge emotional component.”

Faubus had been on a roller coaster with his weight from the time he was a teenager. At 17, he enlisted in the Marines; he was able to shed some pounds. But after his active duty, the weight came back. The same thing happened in his late 20s.

“I took some weight off, but it’d come back,” he said. “It’s something I’ve battled all my life.”

Working as a medic, he continually went on calls to help people suffering from various ailments where weight and/or obesity were contributing factors. He had considered himself fortunate that he had not developed any chronic conditions and carried on with his life, eating out while on shift and using smokeless tobacco.

Then at 42, life delivered a sobering wake-up call as Kelvin Armstrong died from complications of diabetes.

“I watched diabetes kill my best friend,” Faubus said. “I had a lot of opportunities to learn a lesson or make a change for the better. I never learned a lesson ’til a friend died.”

Change did not come instantly; he instead started seeing his own mortality.

“When I turned 42, I became obsessed with dying,” Faubus said.

He stopped using smokeless tobacco, but he couldn’t get the scales to turn in his favor. Instead, he gained more weight before hitting the high point 14 months ago. That’s when it was time to make a change.

That change did not come with shortcuts. It was pure and simple hard work. He stopped eating out and began bringing meals from home for his 24-hour shifts, which was a lifestyle change for him and co-workers. He began walking daily and then last November he started running.

Then he started to feel his body change.

“I was walking and gradually got into running again,” Faubus said. “I started running in November, and from November to May is when I saw the big results.

“It was simple, basic hard work. I get the question all the time, how I did it. There’s no magic bullet. I literally worked my butt off.”

His first goal was to complete the Veteran’s 5K in May, which he did despite shin splints.

Faubus recovered from the setback and kept training. His friends, including camping and workout partner David Walker took notice of Faubus’ hard work and results.

“It’s an inspiration for anyone to see what you can do with hard work,” Walker said. “Dee has set the bar high.

“I remember last Thanksgiving going for a three-mile run, and we weren’t too far before he ran off and left me. His tenacity and the way he’s stuck with it is an inspiration for me and everyone.”

After visiting with a cousin who competed in triathlons, he became intrigued by the event. He originally though most triathlons were only in iron-man distances of the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run. When he saw a flyer for the Wise-Tri and its sprint distance – 400-meter swim, 12 miles on the bike and 5K run – he made that his new goal.

Six weeks before the race, he began working with his cousin, who is also a swimming instructor, and she began helping him prepare for the event.

“The last six weeks, I followed her guidance,” Faubus said.

His main goal as the race approached was to finish. It wasn’t until he got through the swim that he realized he was going to make it. But it was not easy, he said. After biking, when he started the run, he had trouble catching his breath.

“It took me a mile to get my breathing regulated,” Faubus said. “It was such a unique experience. In the Marines, you do a lot of things that you think that you can’t do. Every day is a new challenge. I didn’t feel that until the other day.”

When he approached the finish line, Faubus began thinking about all the help from friends, co-workers and his wife and daughter along the way.

“Things like this are never done in a vacuum,” he said. “Without them, I could have never done this.”

While he crossed the finish line at the race, Faubus knows his battle is still going, and he’s not totally reached his goal. He plans to do more triathlons and continue on his weight loss to reach his goal of 210 pounds.

“I maintain a sense of the job still being undone,” Faubus said. “I don’t want to get complacent. This will be a lifelong battle.”

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