Why I signed up for Ironman Triathlon
An Ironman is a 140.6-mile triathlon, originated by some lunatics out in Hawaii in the 70's. It starts with a cool 2.4-mile open water swim, followed by a casual 112-mile bike ride, wrapping up with a lovely 26.2-mile full marathon.
Late last August on a cool summer morning I registered for the ever so hilly Lake Placid Ironman. One of the most challenging Ironman in the US.
Let’s set the record straight. I’m by no means an endurance athlete. In 2013 I graduated college a plump 250 pounds. When I signed up last August I had never swam a real lap in a pool. I actually didn’t know how to swim to be candid. I didn’t own a bike. I ran a marathon once.
Oh the Commitment
Training would suck big time. I definitely didn’t have the time to train, well because who does. I knew I would have to make time and make sacrifices.
But making time is hard, I get it. Trust me, life is crazy. Life in New York City is crazy times fifty
Whatever though. I was up for the challenge. How hard could it really be?
The next day, at 6am, I went to a local pool, swam 50 yards, sliced my hand open on the ladder and left swearing I’ll drown in Lake Placid.
So over the last 10 months, I dedicated anywhere between 8 to 16 hours a week training. I bought a bike in September and taught myself how to swim.
Saturday’s averaged between five to seven hours of training complimented by Sunday runs that ranges between 14 & 20 miles.
It’s been a journey of highs and lows. Moments of achievement like a 101-mile bike ride or a 20-mile hill based run, were supplemented by missed workouts, heat exhaustion, mental depression.
One night, I swam 2 miles, checked into a hotel in D.C, ran 10 miles, signed onto work, then woke up at 4am with my face embedded into my Mac keyboard.
2017 has been exhausting without training. I’ve been given more responsibility at work than I ever expected. I traveled to D.C. or Atlanta every week. Sixty hour work weeks plus travel back and forth to New York were the norm.
To top it off I moved out of my apartment in Hoboken in late April and became a vagabond. Most nights are spent in hotel rooms, friends couches, the occasional hostel, or my mom’s pull out couch in her small studio apartment. I actually typed 60% of this from a tea shop in Venice beach. I usually don’t know where I’ll be sleeping three days from now, let alone where I’ll be working out.
So I packed my luggage. I traveled. I trained.
Some days I remember nearly crying I was so damn tired.
“ Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out” — Robert Collier
As I kept testing my limits, I kept getting the same question from the people watching me suffer.
I really didn’t have a great reason for signing up. I still don’t. I talked to some friends, read some articles and ultimately went on Ironman.com and paid the fee on a random Sunday morning.
I do enjoy challenges, not going to lie. I love people who say something can’t be done. That only extraordinary people can do extraordinary things. That putting in the effort to do a triathlon isn’t a “good use of time”
I wanted to motivate myself, and others to live a healthier lifestyle. I wanted to let people know that we’re capable of so much. That “I can’t” is just a figure of speech. I wanted to learn how to make the most out of time.
I definitely wanted to be in better shape and lose weight for the summer, which in hindsight was an aggressive approach.
But what I found myself trying to prove was balance. I found myself trying to prove that I can have a personal life, career success, and push myself physically.
When you’re moving so fast you rarely get the chance to look back at what you accomplish.
The Ironman is 19 days away. Only 19 days. And as I look back I wanted to reflect on some of the cool stuff I’ve done some over the last ten months.
- Traveled to Atlanta, Boston, Charleston, Nashville, Cuba, D.C, Virginia, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Lake Placid, Pocono’s, Quebec City, Phoenix, and Los Angeles
- Training with friends around the country (Shout out to James, Andrew, Nick, Steve, Christian, and Mairead)
- Elected VP of the NYC RPI Alumni Association
- Started writing blogs
- Made dozens of new friends
- Got promoted
- Swam 55 miles
- Ran 653 miles
- Biked 1320 miles
“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment, until it becomes a memory.” — Georges Duhamel
When you’re fighting for time in a day you need to assess where you spend time most. From there it’s a prioritization effort. What’s going to get you closer to your goals. What’s taking up time.
For me social drinking had to go. Social binge drinking can become a time consuming activity if you let it get away from you. I couldn’t sustain going out on Friday’s and Saturday’s, dragging on through a hangover, then going to work tired and miserable. I couldn’t fight through hungover workouts.
But giving up drinking and partying doesn’t mean you don’t have a life. It means you find new ways to enjoy life. I’ve taken to writing as an area that would fill my new found time. Biking, as it became a part of my physical training, gave me a new way to travel and explore new cities. I remember waking up at 5 am with my buddy Andrew and biking up to West Point, or going to Quebec City for a week and living in a hostel.
I traveled and visited friends across the country. I traveled and visited no one, meeting new friends along the way. If I didn’t have a bike with me I rented one. If I had a pair of sneakers I ran.
I stopped caring about House of Cards (both the TV show and the real life political cinema), Mike Trout’s batting average, or fantasy football.
I even went 54 days sober at one point. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but it had to be my longest sobriety streak since high school.
I drank sometimes, but not a lot. I went out sober, forcing me to step out of my comfort zone. Still crushed the dance floor though.
But as I think more about it, and with a couple of days until the race, I realized it wasn’t about making time. We all have time. It’s about tradeoffs.
On weekdays I traded dinners with friends and television shows for night runs, swims, and my laptop. I traded boozy brunches for bike rides. Saturday nights at the bar for sleep. I traded temporary bliss for temporary pain.
I’m not a mental warrior. I’ve tried talking myself into quitting so many times. I’ve considered dropping out of the race. I’ve skipped or cut workouts short.
I became depressed in the spring. I was clearly overworking myself. Life at a million miles an hour isn’t normal and shouldn’t be. There’s a difference between being “Type A” and just being stupid. I let my laptop and my training plan define my emotions. I was quiet about it when I shouldn’t have been.
I learned a lot of lessons along the way, but none more important then teamwork. Whether it’s finding a biking buddy or delegating work you’d usually take on by yourself, it’s important to remember that there’s no glory in doing it alone.
“So, live. Live. Fight like hell. And when you get too tired to fight then lay down and rest and let somebody else fight for you. That’s also very, very important.” — Stuart Scott
The Power of Action
I listened to a great audio during a morning run that compared action to the fibonacci sequence. I thought it was brilliant.
The Fibonacci sequence is series of number that feed off of its’ predecessors. I started with 0, nothing, no swim technique, no bike, no registration, just ambition. Ambition is worthless without action. When I signed up for the Ironman I transitioned to 1. I bought a bike and swim trunks, still at 1. I learned how to swim, 2. I continued to run, bike, swim, 3, 5, 8, 13. I cut out binge drinking, hired a coach, and trained around the country, 21, 34, 55, 89…
The more I did the more I could do. The more I’m doing the more I’ve done.
Here’s my tip of advice. Register for something you really want to do, then do it.
Want to start a business? Set a deadline for your business plan, put in your two weeks notice, and don’t look back. Want to run a half-marathon? Sign up, share the date with your friends & family, and do it. You’d be surprised how friends & family get behind you.
Keep moving through life. Keep shocking people with your choices. Don’t worry about what anyone thinks about you.
Every day is a new opportunity to do something completely crazy.
Don’t over think it either. The worst that could happen is failure. Maybe I don’t finish the Ironman. If I don’t then I don’t, but you bet I’ll be at the starting line on July 23rd.
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” — Dr. Seuss
Spontaneous Series Post 2