Ray Pence (37) has been part of Team Innerforce for quite some time now. We sat down and talk with him about how triathlon changed his life and how he combines his multiple jobs with being an athlete.
It’s an honor to introduce you to this amazing person who has given us more than you can imagine. Dive into his story and surprised yourself as we did when we met him!
How do you define yourself? What’s your story?
I would describe myself as a hardworking family man that strives to achieve the best for myself, my wife Jolene and our kids Marshall, Jackson, and Katie. I often pick up overtime, extra odd and end jobs, as well as anything that comes my way to help us achieve our goals. I have been a volunteer firefighter for going on 14 years and love to help our community in every way possible.
When did you start practicing triathlon? What was the thing that caught your attention?
My story for triathlon begins back about five years ago when one day before work our son had asked me if I wanted to go out in the yard to throw the football and I was like sure. So, as we were getting ready to go out and play catch I bent down to tie my shoe and stood up and got really light headed. I knew I had gained weight over the past couple years traveling for work, eating like trash, no exercise, and a Horrible work schedule. I knew something had to change and change fast. I was at my heaviest at 246lbs. A couple days later I was sitting in the living room scrolling on facebook with my wife and I saw an ad for Ironman Muncie 70.3. I said to her I have always wanted to do an Ironman. I remember watching them on tv when i was younger and she said to sign up. So I signed up and paid the entry fee which then motivated me to start running when traveling for work. Shortly after that I bought a cheap road bike off of amazon and added that into the mix. After all, I had 9 months to train. As I trained by biking and running over the next couple months I saw an ad for a local sprint and olympic distance race at a local state park. I signed up for the sprint and continued to train through the winter and spring and when May came it was finally race day. As I prepared my things on race day I started to get nervous and questioned what I was thinking seeing some of the other bikes and athletes there. I knew these people meant business. So I stepped up to the start line and the gun went off for my age group and I hit the water. I swam like rock but made it through. Once I got on my bike I started passing people and gaining confidence. I pushed harder and harder and came back into transition feeling good. I took off on the run which was a combo of a road/trail run and never lost a spot. I finished third in my age group and I was hooked. I have competed in several sprint triathlons, Ironman, and 5k races ever since.
We know you have multiple jobs right now, how do you manage to accomplish every one of them and still get out for a run or bike every day?
I have since left that job and currently work at Steel Dynamics, INC as a SAF 3rd helper tapping iron to be mixed to make new steel that is used all over the world. I was lucky enough to find this job while I was laid off from my former job because it allows me to eat better, train more, and have somewhat of a consistent sleep schedule, all while having more family time. On top of my job there I am often helping out the elderly folks in our community by doing their landscaping, mowing, or odd and end things they need done. I have also been a volunteer firefighter for going on 14 years which means when the pager goes off, we drop everything we are doing and Respond. We often sacrifice our time with family, Holidays, and everyday life to help those in need. I think one one of the coolest things about my current department is that I have the honor of having my father-in-law's fire number on my helmet everytime I respond. When I don’t have all of that going on I make the time for myself to relieve my stresses by going on a ride, run, or swim and forgetting about everything for a while. I am very fortunate for my wife and kids who are very supportive of my triathlon addiction and often sacrifice there time to be at my races early in the morning and cheering for me.
Where do you find motivation?
I often get my motivation from my family as I want to be here for them for a long time by keeping myself healthy and by signing up for races and then knowing I have to continue to train to be prepared for battle on race day. When it’s race day my motivation comes straight from my family being there to watch me and cheer me on in transition and as I finish the race.
Have you ever experienced any lows? How did you overcome them?
I have gone through some lows in my training when winter comes. It is always hard for me to get motivated due to the snow and cold weather we get. I have been better about it over the last couple years using an indoor trainer and local YMCA. It seems like once my last race of the year is over I lose motivation due to not racing. I have found zwift racing can cure that and make the winter more enjoyable. I would say the Highs in my triathlon career are definitely completing the Ironman Muncie 70.3 I signed up for, Taking second at the TurtleMan Triathlon in Jupiter, FL, and I would have to say my favorite was being selected as Toyota’s USAT Triathlete of the Week in 2020. I look forward to racing for many years to come with my A race this season being the USAT Age Group National Championships where I look to put on a good showing by aiming for a top 10 in my age group.
What does it mean to you to be a firefighter and a triathlete?
I think my triathlon training and firefighting go hand in hand due to the fact that you need to keep yourself physically fit as a firefighter. I see a lot of firefighters that worry more about building muscle than cardio. I feel that both are just as equally important and I find that balance as a triathlete. I have strength training days and cardio days that I use in cross training to find my balance.
I would like to thank my wife, kids, and family for believing in me and encouraging me on this journey that I enjoy so much. Also I need to say thank you to Innerforce Sports, FullSend Triathlon, and all our team sponsors for taking a chance on an average guy like me and helping me have the proper gear to perform my best in training and on race day.