Down 300 Pounds, Marcus Cook is on a Mission
"Who loses almost 300 pounds and, a year and a half after that, does a half IRONMAN? Who raises $100,000 for a foundation that they've never had contact with? Who becomes the slowest and fattest pro triathlete on the circuit?" The answer to these burning questions is the same guy who's asking them: Marcus Cook.
Marcus' weight loss journey has led him along some previously inconceivable paths. Of course, the glamor of his world travel and media interviews all depends on his sweaty, anything-but-glamorous triathlon training. Every day, he runs, bikes, and swims with the Endless Pools Fastlane® in his backyard pool. His mission now is to spread the word.
One Door Closing, Another One Opening
"In September 2015, I weighed approximately 489 pounds," Marcus recounts. That's when he visited a friend suffering from the final stages of cancer. "He said, 'I'm dying of a terrible disease, and you're dying because of your choice. I would do anything to be you. You've got to just try. Your family needs you.' So I just started trying with everything I had in me."
Trying, for Marcus, meant gastric bypass surgery three months later. It meant smarter nutrition choices and a steadily escalating exercise regimen. "I started walking 20 minutes a day" and slowly building that to two miles a day and then to running.
"The first time I ever ran with my son, he was 16 years old," and Marcus recalls reflecting then on the many opportunities he missed due to his past mobility limitations. "It's not all about me. You think you're the only one you're affecting. You quickly realize you're affecting a lot of people."
Marcus Steps it Up
In September 2016, one year after hearing his friend's dying wish, Marcus completed an Olympic triathlon. From there, his ambition quickly progressed.
"A year and half from being 500 pounds, I found myself on the starting line of IRONMAN Texas. I finished that and have not looked back since."
"I ran three marathons. I've done four half-IRONMANs and two full IRONMANs. In the last six weeks, I've done three half IRONMANs and one full IRONMAN."
"I started raising money for the IRONMAN Foundation. I raised $100,000 for them," which secured him a prestigious slot for the 2018 IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.
Bringing Training Home
Marcus has a backyard pool at home, but it's too small to train for open water swimming. "I found myself going back and forth to the gym." That wasn't suitable for a beginning swimmer who needs time and space: "You go to a pool, and you're either fighting a superfast swimmer, or you're swimming with 15 people at 6 in the morning."
He tried doing his swim training in a nearby lake, but "you drive an hour and half in traffic just to get there, and it's only open until dark."
When he realized he didn't have room to build a 25-yard pool, he briefly considered moving to a new home! Fortunately, a Facebook friend and fellow triathlete recommended the Endless Pools Fastlane.
The Fastlane mounts to almost any traditional pool to deliver Endless Pools' signature swim current. "I just saw it, and said, 'Man, that's incredibly bad to the bone.'" After researching his options to transform his traditional pool with a current for in-place swimming, "I thought you guys had the best product out there."
With the Fastlane, Marcus says, "I can run, and then jump in the pool immediately, do my swim workout, and then jump on the bike. It's the coolest freakin' way to work out!"
Swimming Faster with the Fastlane
It's been just over two months since Marcus installed the Fastlane, and already he's seen some benefit from his swim training. "The cool thing is, my swim times have improved."
The pace of the Endless Pools swim current is measured in time per 100 yards or meters. "When I first started in the pool, I swam a 2:45. The other day, I did a half-mile recovery swim at 2:02, which is smoking fast for me!
"You're talking to a guy who never swam until a year and a half ago. Now I'm getting in my pool, and I'm swimming an hour non-stop.
"In the Endless Pool, I can take the different stroke [techniques] that I'm working on and learn which works best for me. You can adjust. You start upping your game.
"For Kona, I'm focusing on my swim time. I have to get out of the water 20 minutes faster to get through that first 20-mile uphill before that headwind picks up. It'll get me past that critical point."
Another reason that Marcus prefers in-place swimming with the Fastlane: "Who likes doing kick turns? I'm always scared of getting water up my nose."
Sharing the Pool
"My son lost 50 pounds, and he's training for half IRONMAN Boulder with me in August. So now he's out there, loving the Fastlane! I've got a couple of buddies that live nearby, and I've given them to key to the gate; so several athletes say, 'Man, this is pretty awesome!'"
His 11-year-old daughter also gets enjoyment out of the Fastlane. "It makes a hell of a lazy river," Marcus attests. "It makes the whole pool like a giant whirlpool. The kids are like, 'Dad, this is the best!' We have the coolest pool in the neighborhood."
"In fact, I have to fight for times sometimes," Marcus laughs. "'Hey guys, give me 45 minutes, and then y'all can have at it!'"
DIY, with Some Help from his Friends
Marcus works hard, but he's quick to acknowledge his support circle – family, old friends, and new friends from the world of triathlon. He credits "a team of people around me" with making his new life possible.
The same combination of hard work and polite requests is how he installed his Fastlane in his backyard pool. "It looks very intimidating because it comes in so many boxes. Once you take it all apart, I said, 'Wow, this is pretty simple.'"
He and a friend quickly assembled and installed the Fastlane, and a local pool company did the electrical hookup. And that attitude – working hard, with a helping hand – is what he takes out into the world every day.
A Man on a Mission
"I'm doing this to help the dude who's 500 pounds sitting on the couch and thinking he's the only one it's affecting." Marcus is eager to let such people know, "You don't have to be this way. You're telling yourself you cannot do something when all you have to do is start walking for 20 minutes."
Marcus is eager to share his experiences, even with strangers he sees on the street! "I'm real passionate about this. That's the reason why I'll tell my story to anybody, and I'll help people anyway I can, so they know they can change. If you start seeking health, health will find you.
"If I can do that times 1000 people, I've just changed a thousand peoples lives. They're going to look up one day, and they're kids are going to be running with them."
Marcus says that his commitment to positive, healthy change is why he also loves recommending the Endless Pools Fastlane. "Instead of going to a gym, here's a badass piece of equipment you can get. Those are the kinds of tools to help someone become a better athlete, a better person.
"And the more you can live the life you're supposed to live, live life to the fullest, the better the world becomes."