The trifecta-- Attorney grants himself an unusual birthday wish

By Tom Kirvan

Legal News

Like any sharp tax attorney, Bill Sider is a man of his word.

Good thing, otherwise he might have faced the music with those to whom he'd given his promise.

"Nothing like seeing your goals in print to make sure you live up to them," said Sider, an attorney with Jaffe, Raitt, Heuer, & Weiss in Southfield.

Last spring, as he eyed his 50th birthday milestone this fall, Sider had a different sort of celebration in mind to mark the special occasion. He even made mention of it in a feature story appearing in the Legal News.

As a birthday "present" to himself, Sider planned to complete a triathlon.

A Half Ironman competition, to be exact. It's not an event for the faint of heart. In fact, only those with a healthy supply of intestinal fortitude need apply. The sport combines swimming, biking, and running in a supreme test of speed and stamina.

A Half Ironman features a 1.2-mile lake swim, a 56-mile bike, and a 13.1-mile run, an exercise combination that is daunting under any conditions. Do it in choppy waters, over a roller coaster-like bike course, and in near-90-degree heat and may the good times really roll.

Such was the case Sunday, Aug. 29 when Sider, true to his word, entered the Petoskey triathlon. The three-pronged course is considered one of the most challenging on the summer triathlon circuit. His family--wife Michelle, 16-year-old son Joshua, and 12-year-old twins Ben and Eli--were there to provide moral support.

"Race day in Petoskey was completely cloudless, full of sunshine, and the mercury climbed to 86 degrees," Sider reported. "The start of the (swim) course was right up the center of the Petoskey marina, with boats docked on either side, so at about 20 yards across there was quite a bit of bumping in the first quarter-mile or so. It's at this point that triathlons become a contact sport.

Sider, an English major in the honors program at the University of Michigan during his undergraduate days, covered the 1.2-mile course in 34:30, nearly 3 minutes faster than he expected. Life, as they say, was "good" after stage one.

"The race organizers billed the bike course as 'epic' with 'heart-pounding downhills,'" Sider said of the ride of his life to come. "The elevation map truly looked like a Cedar Pointe roller coaster.

"I loved it," he stated. "We started climbing immediately after leaving the transition area from the swim, which was, of course, a taste of many climbs to come. As soon as the course leveled out a bit, I began my eating/drinking regimen. Thanks to the veterans out there who advised me to 'eat and drink as much as my stomach could bear.' I am happily going to put my leftover gel in a drawer and not look at it for several weeks."

The bike course took riders through a speck of a town called Wolverine, where pumped up music, an aid station, and "some locals cheering" gave Sider a much needed boost for more than 20 miles of cycling to come.

"Mile 35 was time for more gel--which at this point was really a case of force feeding," he said. "I didn't want it, but knew that I still had the 13.1-mile run and would need the calories. The ride from this point until mile 49 was lots of downhill and I definitely conquered my apprehension of fast descents on this race. With as hard as I worked climbing the hills, there was no way I wasn't going to maximize every bit of downhill speed. I think I hit my brakes twice during the whole ride."

Sider finished the 56-mile trek in 3:43, "very happy that I had no mechanical issues" and could still sport a "smile on my face" despite the punishing ride in increasingly warmer conditions. He then embarked on a half-marathon run along the Little Traverse Wheelway, a spectacular lake-lined route between Petoskey and Charlevoix. It would prove to be anything but a leisurely stroll.

"My initial goal was to try and get into a rhythm after the bike (always tough) and get some solid miles in before (my son) Joshua would join me at the roughly 6-mile mark," Sider related. "My run, however, slowly turned into a shuffle I'd say, as the heat, sun, and uphill grade started to take its toll."

His son joined the "fun" on the loop back with 5.5 miles to go, helping buoy Sider's spirits with "great story telling." Still, Sider was hurting, lingering longer and longer at each aid station along the way.

"The last few miles were not pretty, but I was still moving and at the 12-mile mark we started the final run--or shuffle, that is--to the finish line," Sider said with a wince. "Ben Sider was waiting with about 200 yards to go and Eli Sider joined us right at the finish shoot. The P.A. system at the finish line announced here comes 'Dad with his support team.'"

A resident of Huntington Woods, Sider completed the grueling triathlon in 7:17.08. It was, he admitted, an "interesting way" to mark a birthday milestone. He has no plans to try a full-blown Ironman--a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run--for his 60th birthday. Instead, he offered heartfelt thanks to his support team for a very compelling 50th birthday present.

"My family was terrific the whole weekend, with lots of cheering, patience, and encouragement," he said. "I could not have done this without their support over the last eight months of training. Michelle was awesome. It was exactly the 50th birthday celebration I had hoped for."

Published: Mon, Sep 20, 2010