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Racing Towards a Goal Through Inspiration

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Our golden years are a time to settle into rest and relaxation mode and enjoy the spoils of our hard work. Jerry Core, a 66 year-old retired husband, father and grandfather, however, decided it was about much more, deciding to tackle a new and rigorous hobby of triathlon competition.

Core grew up in rural North Florida just outside of Tallahassee and has always had a love for sports. He attended Crawfordville High School and as a student-athlete played both football and basketball before setting his sights on college. He attended North Florida Junior College and Florida State University before settling at the University of West Florida, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1970. Later, Jerry went on to earn his Master’s degree in Education from the University of Houston in 1984.

After teaching high school math and coaching both high school football and basketball for 10 years in Florida, Jerry and his wife Marilyn moved to the Houston area in 1981. Jerry quickly got a job teaching math and coaching basketball in the Aldine district, where he dedicated the next 22 years of his career before retiring in 2003. After settling into life in Texas, Jerry and Marilyn started a family and had two children and are now the proud grandparents of two grandchildren. Sadly, their daughter Candy lost her battle with cancer in the summer of 2011, but has served as a continuous source of motivation for her father’s competitive spirit.

In the more than 10 years since his retirement from teaching in 2003, Jerry has refocused his energy on training for triathlons. He first competed in the “Try Andy’s Tri” Triathlon in Sugarland in the fall of 2004. He recalls the 300 meter pool swim, 10 mile bike route and 3.1 mile run as grueling, but still remembers the support and encouragement from friends, family and new training buddies that got him through it. Those training buddies are still at his side and, per Jerry, responsible for getting him “hooked” on triathlons.

Having competed in nearly 35 triathlons over the last decade in addition to a number of half marathons, marathons, and road races, Jerry’s body has certainly seen some very rigorous and challenging training regimens. In 2007, Jerry was experiencing knee pain and sought out the expertise of Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr. Alain Elbaz, from Advanced Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine in Cypress, TX. Dr. Elbaz performed an arthroscopic procedure on Jerry’s left knee in late 2007 and another on his right knee in early 2008. Although he experienced pain relief, his strenuous training schedule took its toll and Jerry required a follow-up procedure on his right knee a year later in 2009.

After repairs to both knees, Core went through physical therapy and was happy and healthy while setting his sights on the Texas Ironman competition scheduled for May 2011. After successfully completing that competition, Core managed to stay healthy and compete in various contests for more than two years before back pain sidelined his training in 2013. Pain in his lower back and into his legs led Jerry to consult with Dr. Matthew Cubbage, Orthopedic Spine Surgeon at Advanced Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine. To his surprise, Jerry learned that multiple ailments were plaguing his back including lumbar degenerative disc disease, lumbar spinal stenosis and facet syndrome. But instead of encouraging Jerry to give up his love for triathlons, Dr. Cubbage suggested and performed a minimally invasive lumbar fusion that would allow Jerry to get back to training and competing.

After his back surgery, Jerry required nearly 6 weeks of recovery time and physical therapy, which he enthusiastically completed. After several months of strength and endurance training, Jerry is now pain free and excited to be back on the triathlon circuit. He completed his second full distance Ironman competition in Florida only 9 months after his surgery in November 2013. Even after back surgery and several moths of recovery and therapy, he finished 8th in his age group with a time of 14 hours and 43 minutes; more than 26 minutes faster than his first triathlon.

More important than setting a personal best or even finishing this most recent race, Jerry emphasizes that each race is about remembering and honoring his daughter. With her name inscribed on his triathlon suit in 2013, his motivation was drawn from her and the battle that she fought and ultimately lost to cancer. He will always remember the first full distance triathlon he completed occurred just 2 days after Candy was brought home to hospice. Sadly, just 3 weeks later, she passed away. He still believes that triathlons are grueling and hard on the body, but admits that Candy’s race against cancer was so much more difficult than any triathlon he has or will ever face.

Now that he is healthy and virtually pain free, Jerry uses his love for his daughter and the memory of her life and fight as inspiration to continue training and preparing for upcoming competitions. With a dedication like that, we can be fairly certain that Jerry Core will be on the starting line and seen crossing the finish line of many more triathlons in the future.

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