When Fiction Becomes Nonfiction: I’m a Triathlete!

I didn’t drown!

ALTHOUGH I’M a voracious reader, it may come as a slight surprise that my adventures into triathlons started with a fiction novel. Two years ago, after two of my operations, I read a Mystery/Thriller by Don Travis, called The Zozobra Incident. It attracted me because it promised to be a hard-boiled mystery with an openly gay protagonist, something I hadn’t read before but is very much in my wheelhouse. The book delivered everything it promised, and more, but I wasn’t anticipating the lasting effect it would have on me and my life.

Ominously, the course started with a hill.

BJ Vinson, our protagonist, is a law enforcement officer who was heroically injured in the line of duty, now retired from the force and working as a confidential investigator. He’s nearly middle age, lost his parents in a tragic accident, has a strong work ethic, is daring and intelligent, and is gay. Until I read The Zozobra Incident, I’d never met a protagonist of BJ’s ilk. I especially hadn’t realized how much I’d been pining for a role model, someone I could relate to and look up to on this level. I gobbled up the next BJ Vinson mystery, and the next, and am currently not-so-patiently awaiting the fourth (The Lovely Pines, which comes out at the end of August).

OMG it’s hot.

There are many differences between BJ’s life and mine, but I felt a closeness to him–which should wholeheartedly be ascribed to Travis’s skill as a writer–and I wanted to feel closer. Because BJ was injured in the leg, he regularly swims for exercise. I reasoned it’s fairly normal for runners to have a secondary aerobic exercise they use as a cross training tool, plus it was something simple I could do in order to feel closer to my hero, so after I recovered from my surgeries I enrolled in a swim class. That swim class led to me swimming three days per week, and because I got acclimated to running and swimming in the same workout schedule, I figured if I wanted to do a triathlon all I had to add was the cycling piece. Which led me to signing up for my first race.

I trained for a year, vigorously for four months. Every day I spent hours either lifting, swimming, cycling, running, or doing a combination of all four. In my state of exhaustion, I admittedly didn’t spend much time thinking of BJ, of what he might think of all this. I also didn’t see much of my husband. But finally, this last Saturday, at Henry Hagg Lake in scenic (and hilly) Forest Grove, I finished my first Olympic distance triathlon. I am now a marathoner and a triathlete.

And I have Don Travis and his character to thank for that.

Thank you, Don and BJ. Without you, none of this would have been possible. To those authors who inspire countless of others, thank you and keep writing. Not everyone may thank you in a blog post, but know your words have changed people’s lives–you make the world a better place.


Here’s my Review of The Zozobra Incident by Don Travis. (At the bottom should be suggestion links to other books in the series.) Also, anyone notice that awesome medal and matching T shirt? Totally rad.

1 Comment

  1. Ben, you claim I altered your life… or rather BJ did. With this post, you altered my universe! Very pleased we could be of mutual benefit to one another over all the miles that separate us. That’s rad!

    Thanks, Ben

    Don Travis


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