Name: Chris DeBottis
Tell us about yourself.
I was born and raised in Camillus and have lived in Marcellus since 1993. I am married and my husband Mike is my best friend and number one supporter. We live with two dogs and four cats just outside the village which makes it very convenient to just walk out the door and go x-c skiing, fishing, hiking, running and biking – all without having to drive somewhere. In June of 2010, we figuratively cut the TV cord when the signal went from analog to digital, and I can say that I really don’t miss it because I find time to do other things. When I am not home, I can either be found at the local library or the gym.
Besides swimming, biking, and running, I like to x-c ski, snowshoe, and hike. I worked in the Telecom industry in the accounting/finance department since 1999 and have been fortunate to work for two small local companies, the first of which went bankrupt in 2008. I couldn’t have picked better people to work for and feel fortunate that I love what I do.
How long have you been involved in Triathlon and what made you take it up?
I am a newbie and decided to give triathlon a try in 2010 when I registered for my first event, Iron Girl. I am not one who likes to go outside of my comfort zone, but in recent years I have tried to push my limits. In September of 2004, I took a big step out of my comfort zone to hike and camp at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I had to overcome my anxiety of flying, leaving my animals in the care of others and face my fear of heights while hiking down the Kaibab trail. Hiking the canyon was something I never dreamed I would ever be able to physically do, and it was an experience that would help me physically and psychologically in the coming months.
Less than 6 weeks after my Grand Canyon hike, a co-worker spotted a lump on my neck. A few weeks later, I was undergoing tests for not just one lump, but three. I had cysts in three different areas of my body; I would spend the next month undergoing diagnostic tests to determine if the cysts were benign or malignant. I went to all of my appointments alone. To keep my nerves from overwhelming me when I was lying on the table being scanned, I brought myself back to the canyon and all that it meant to me. Nine days before Christmas, I got the preliminary diagnosis of Papillary thyroid cancer and on Jan 10th 2005 I had surgery. I knew that hiking the canyon had been part of the grand plan all along in that it helped me to believe in myself. So began the journey that brought me to where I am today.
Who is your Hero?
Anyone who has faced adversity in their life and has made a difference in the world is a hero in my eyes. Tragedy struck me when my dad was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1976. He died two years later when I was twenty-one. I know first hand how life-changing events can make or break an individual and/or their family. In 2005 I attended the Marcellus Relay For Life event in Marcellus Park and had the opportunity to meet a real hero, Dick Schaffer of Skaneateles. When I met Dick, he was preparing to ride cross-country with Lance Armstrong on the Bristol-Myers Tour of Hope team. Dick had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer and spent many months away from his home and family while he was receiving treatment at MD Anderson Hospital. Dick had been an avid triathlete and was one of those individuals whom everybody loved. He completed the cross-country bike ride, but sadly his cancer returned and he lost the hardest battle he ever faced. He touched my life more than anyone I have ever met, and even today, I get teary eyed when I think of what an incredible individual he was and how many lives he touched.
My second hero is Michael McBride, he was the son of my former co-worker Aimee. Michael was diagnosed with Wilms Tumor on Jan 19, 2010 at the very young age of four and endured more than any individual should ever have to go through in a lifetime. Sadly on June 13th 2011, Michael earned his angel wings at home with the family he loved so much and his beloved dog Bo. As we approach the first year of Michael’s passing, I reflect on how unfair life can be and on the pain and suffering his mom, dad and brother face each day with his loss. When I find myself feeling like I cannot go on I think of Michael and the courage and strength he possessed in the short time he had here on Earth. His memory gives me the strength to carry on.
What is your athletic background?
I have absolutely no athletic background and in fact just the opposite. My father was a graduate of Syracuse University and was one of their best boxers when the university had a boxing team. My dad’s brother was a renowned athlete at North High and my maternal grandfather was a semi-professional baseball player, but I did not inherit any of their athleticism.
Growing up in the 60’s taking gym class was not an activity that I looked forward to. The girls were required to wear hideous one-piece outfits and there was never a size small enough to fit me. When it came time to choose team,s I was always the second to the last one to be picked, and rightfully so. We were required to take the president’s physical fitness test and I flunked every single time. Looking back, if there had been someone with a hand outstretched willing to help me I would have grasped wholeheartedly but there wasn’t.
Once I was out of school I played city rec softball and volleyball for many years and enjoyed mountain biking and off road motorcycle riding, but that was about the extent of my athletic abilities.
What are your Triathlon strengths and weaknesses?
I don’t consider myself strong in any of one of the legs of a triathlon. Since I have to choose one, I would say my swimming in open water is the one that I struggle with the most. I am fine swimming in a pool and I enjoy swimming because it is the one sport that I find gives me physical and emotional peace. Get me in the open water and it’s like I forget how to swim. When I first started open water swimming, I attended the CNY Tri Wednesday night training at Oneida Shores. Kristin and Andy were my best supporters and offered advice when I asked, which was quite often. Each week as I exited the water I would ask, “what was my time” and every week I made up time from the prior week. By the time the season ended, I was comfortable and made a great improvement since my first week in the water.
Now as we approach the first open water swim at Gillie Lake, I know I will be challenged again as I enter the water for the first time, hope that I can get into a relaxed state, and remember what comes natural to me in the pool.
What was your first triathlon and what do you remember most?
Iron Girl 2010 was my first race. As a novice, this was a great choice because it was relatively easy. I would not have been able to complete Iron Girl had it not been for the CNY Tri and the Wednesday night training series. Kristin and Andy were so instrumental in building my confidence and helping me along the way, along with the other participants. My biggest obstacle is one of the most important ones, that of nutrition. I am not hungry first thing in the morning, so I did my best to get up early enough have some coffee, Greek yogurt, strawberries and a banana.
I was in the first wave. Even though there were women walking faster than I was swimming, I stayed the course and swam the whole leg. I rode my husband’s 1980’s Specialized Sequoia touring bike, which was heavy and way too big for me. I finished the bike ride in just about an hour. I had set a goal of 2:00 – 2:15 and as I looked at my watch halfway into the run, I knew I had a shot at 2 hours. I finished in just less than 2 hours, so I was very pleased.
What I remember most about this race was after the ceremonies and many of the participants and spectators had left, I heard the announcer call out that there was one more finisher coming in. We all ran to the finish chute to see an individual come in long after everyone else had finished, but you would never know it by the roar of the crowd and the smile on her face. That is the memory that I take from my first race and one I will never forget.
What is your favorite race and why?
Skinneyman was my favorite race for many reasons, one being that it is so close to home for me. What is not to like about Skaneateles Lake? It is one of the finest jewels in Central NY. In the summer of 2010, being a member of the Skaneateles Community Center, I was able to swim in the public swim area as a member. I would spend about three days a week swimming there just to get the practice and to feel more comfortable. There were some Friday nights when there was nowhere I would rather be than in the calm water watching the sunset. I first rode the Skinneyman course with Kristen and Andy on a group ride, and it ended up just being the three of us. Andy was great in staying back with me. He also helped me learn when and how to shift gears to my best advantage.
The race was very well organized and it was only my second race, and just a few weeks after Iron Girl. I chose to go off in the novice wave and thought it was great to see the scuba divers out there under the buoys making sure everyone was safe. The ride and the run were uneventful. I finished a little longer than I had hoped for but I was happy and enjoyed every minute of it. The best part was all the wonderful food at the end and seeing all my friends who had finished before me.
What was your worst race and why?
After Iron Girl and Skinneyman I decided to do DeRuyter Lake at the end of September. I don’t know what I was thinking, because I really was not prepared. It was a beautiful, sunny and relatively warm morning. I tried to get some food down, but the most I could manage was some coffee and yogurt. When it came time to sign in I was assigned my number of 13! I tried to slough it off and not feel a little unnerved.
Got my wetsuit on and got in the water and it did not feel bad for late September, 70 degrees. But when my wave started and I put my face in the water, I could not get over how cold it felt and no matter how I tried, I could not get my breathing under control. So I did most of the swim on my back and on my side, and it took me forever.
When I came out of the water I was disoriented, dizzy, and wondered how I was ever going to ride. I took my time transitioning , ate a banana, hopped on the bike and hoped for the best. The bike portion is a two-loop ride around the lake. The road had been recently tarred and stoned near the start/finish line. I completed the first loop and was about a third of the way on the second loop when my rear tire flatted. I thought about fixing it for about 60 seconds and decided I had enough and was walking my bike back, when someone who already finished stopped to ask if I was okay.
He prepared to fix my flat. When we tried to put on the spare tube, he realized it would not fit. The tube I had was a replacement for my husband’s Specialized and the valve stem was too short for my new bike. He took a tube out of his bag and had me back together quicker than you could blink an eye. I asked his name and he said he was Jeremy and that at least now I had a chance to finish.
I was the last one off the bike and being a slow runner there was no way I could catch up to the individuals ahead of me. But finish I did, in last place, to the cheers and support of the spectators, including Kristin and Andy who had been there for me from the beginning. I looked around at the end to see if I could spot Jeremy and let him know I did finish, but he was nowhere to be found.
Fast forward a few months to an event at Syracuse Bicycle when I was talking to Ginny Burton. I told her of my DeRuyter Lake experience, and how I was able to finish because of an individual named Jeremy. Well Jeremy turned out to be Ginny Burton’s son, and I was able to finally thank him in person that night for his generosity.
What are this year’s goals?
My goals this year are pretty simple and straightforward, recover! In the fall and winter of 2010, I suffered from Achilles issues and had to take a few months off to heal, so in April of 2011 I was excited to get back on track and train. One of my goals was to become a better runner, so in May 2011 I joined Kevin Collin’s Y running group. Within just a matter of four or five weeks I had my fastest 5K at Paige’s Butterfly Run and was excited! I was finally seeing my hard work pay off.
During that time I had an injury that I thought was a quad strain but in the months to come I would realize it was far more serious. On June 26th of last year I felt good and went out for an 18-mile bike ride followed by a 20 minute run and felt great, no pain at all. All that changed by the morning when I could not put any pressure on my right leg. My PT suggested I may have a stress fracture in my femur and so began the emotional rollercoaster of the months to follow. In mid Aug an MRI confirmed that I had a femoral stress fracture. I was handed crutches and told I could not do anything for two months, and by the end of December, I should be able to resume running.
December turned into January and then February, and I still had pain. The only thing I could do was walk. I was told, “to walk the hell out of it” 5 days a week for 45 minutes at a time. So all through the fall, winter, and spring that is what I did. Back in May, I signed up for Wineglass Half Marathon which was Oct 2nd. I decided to see if I could walk it and worst case scenario, would quit if my leg bothered me. I am happy to say I crossed that finish line in just over 3 hr. 10 min and felt on top of the world!
Whenever I tried to progress to the next steps of aqua jogging and the elliptical machine, the pain intensified and I would be set back a few weeks. But at least I could still swim, that was until Thanksgiving when I developed rotator cuff and shoulder blade issues. That is when the tears welled up and I started to feel sorry for myself. But it only lasted a brief few minutes when I realized that this was not about feeling weak and helpless, but about overcoming the obstacles.
This has and never was about the physical pain but rather the mental, emotional and psychological aspect of injury and recovery. I could take what I have learned from this experience and can apply it to whatever difficulties I may face on the road ahead. So triathlon is not just about the days you train and race, but it is also about applying what you have learned about yourself and others and put to use in everyday life situations.
I am glad to say I started a couch to 5K program, and on March 31, I ran for the first time since June 2011! It is a long process because I need two rest days between my run days. My femur needs to get acclimated to the stress of running and time to heal. I will be walking/running Paige’s Butterfly Run and the following weekend I will be walking/running the Lake Placid Half Marathon. And the best part – I am able to participate in the CNY Tri Wed night training series by doing either a bike ride or a run! I am so excited to be training at the newest location Gillie Lake! Thanks to everyone who has supported and encouraged me through this past year! It means more than my words can express!
In five years you hope to …
Hard for me to believe that in five years I will be in another age group (60-64), and that as each year passes, I am going to need to keep moving more than ever. Since this past year’s injuries and my cancer diagnosis in 2004, I have learned not look too far ahead, but to rather enjoy where I am today and hope that, God willing, whatever age related ailments may befall me, that I am still able to enjoy the things I love so much, and that I will still have the strength, stubbornness, and determination to propel myself forward whether I am walking, biking, swimming, xc skiing or snowshoeing.
Something most people don’t know about you:
My previous profession was a draftsman before the days of CAD. I worked for a tool designer in Skaneateles who designed plastic injection molds. My job was to draw the injection molds that produced parts for Kodak, IBM, Avon and others. Some of the items that we worked on were an Avon brush and a gun and ammo box for the GI Joe action figure.