A couple of weeks ago I was just finishing my 4th Ironman, this time in Tempe, Arizona. A race that would qualify me me for the 70.3 World Championship Ironman in South Africa. It’s hard to believe that only one year ago I was just learning how to swim (okay, I knew how to swim, dogging paddle really, but I didn’t know how to SWIM). My first TT (time trial) bike ride was in December of last year (I had only ever mountain biked before), and my first long run ever (more than a couple of miles) was in October 2016. For all intents and purposes I was starting at ground zero.
So why did I do? What started me down the path of becoming a triathlete? Between owning and leading five companies, building a new house, and spending time with my family, what was I thinking committing to this? I’ll tell you. It came from a deep desire to inspire others to move, make fitness and health a priority, and more importantly to just push themselves in any area of their life. I remember at our company Advance last October, I told everyone I was committed to training for my first Ironman and that I was doing it for them, not for me. And that is what drove me every day. My relentless drive to grow just 1% each day and to inspire others to join me in a journey for growth of their own.
To date, I have gotten 15 people (or more!) to register for either marathon or Ironman training (including my wife who has run several marathons now and my brother who is currently in training!) and at least five of these people will be joining me in Lake Placid, NY next year for the Ironman. Countless others have committed to healthier habits, controlling their time, being more purposeful in their business in order to be more present at home, etc. That’s what started me on this journey and has kept me going. Because let me tell you, it hasn’t been easy.
And that’s the funny thing. People think I LOVE to exercise and workout. Do I love getting up at 3am to ride for several hours? Do I love 8 hour training days on Saturday? Do I love running in the rain? Do I love jumping into a freezing pool at 5am? No. No. No. No. But I do love the feeling I get when I beat my mind. I love the endorphins and energy flow after the workout is done. The struggle is real though. Any athlete will tell you that. But the magic happens when you develop the ability to master you mind and overcome the voice in your head that says no. When you can do that, whether when training, in business, or in your every day life, you will win.
So, on October 22nd, almost a year after I jumped into a pool for the first time to learn how to really swim and ran my first 5k, I competed in the Ironman Arizona 70.3. The swim was held in Tempe Town Lake. Going into the race, I had some execution goals and some time goals. Though, because of weather, people, and the landscape of the course, it really should be more about placement in the group, rather than time. Those factors can increase people’s pace or slow them down. For instance, my swim time was 38 minutes and when I got out of the water I was pissed. I’d been swimming hard for months, day in and day out, improving my swim technique. But, come to find out, the swim was actually 1.55 miles, instead of 1.2, likely because a buoy drifted. Despite that hiccup, I ended up swimming the fastest I’ve ever swam and nearly 30 seconds faster per 100 meters than my first open water swim earlier that year. I’ll take.
Ironman, triathlon, or marathon training has so many parallels to business. I think that’s why I enjoy it so much. The mental and emotional fitness you have to cultivate, is nothing compared to the physical. Day in and day out the challenges of the course or the challenges of running a business require the same ability to remain calm, neutral, strong, confident, and decisive. There is no question that by training for the Ironman I have become a better leader.
Let’s get back to the race. The bike was right about where I thought I would be, 2 hours 28 minutes for the 56 miles with about 2,000 feet of elevation. But the run was harder than anticipated given the 95 degree temperature in Arizona (I’m a Vermont boy and am used to training in balmy 60 degree weather) and I was seeing sideways towards the end of the run. The run is by far the hardest part. At this time, your body is beat up from the swim and bike. The second lap or second half of the run is the hardest. This is where you have to draw upon all of the emotional fitness you’ve practiced every day. I like to break the run down into sets. If I have 13 miles to go, I know I have 13, 1 mile sets to complete. I can run to the next aid station, is my mantra. Then if it gets really bad, and it will, I start counting to 100 to get through that rough patch, because a good one will always come. I finished the half marathon in 1 hour 41 minutes which wasn’t my fastest time, but not too far off.
Managing those rough patches during a race is just like dealing with a WFIO (We’re F’ed It’s Over) moment in business. One bad meeting or seemingly catastrophic financial report can be followed the next minute by a great conversation or interview. Take full advantage of the good times and lean into them!
At Ironman Arizona 70.3 I placed 3rd in my age group, which earned me a spot at the World Championship in South Africa. Over the past year, there are times where I wanted to quit, races where my pace was just completely off, weeks when I just wanted a day off. Not every training day has been perfect, not every race has been great, but each trial, each failure has fueled me to keep going. I knew that if I could just get better at the swim by 1%, get better on the bike by 1%, get better on the run by 1%… I was making progress.
In the end, it’s not about the race or whether or not you make it on the podium, it’s the relentless pursuit of progress which will then leak into all areas of your life and take your life, your career, your business to a level you may not have thought possible.
Want to know more about how I did it? The short answer is models, systems, and coaching. The longer answer will be released early next year. Yup, that’s right, I’m writing a book. The lessons I’ve learned (and who I have become) on my path from newbie to Ironman to World Championship qualifier are just too good not to share. I have become a better leader, father, husband, brother, son, business owner, and friend on this journey and I feel compelled to help anyone I can begin their own journey of personal growth. In the meantime, if you want a sneak peek into my daily routine and fitness training, send me an email and I’ll get you the info.
Keep pushing. Keep challenging yourself. If I can inspire just one person to transform their life by telling my story, then I’ve done my job. And remember, if I can be heading to South Africa next year to race against pro athletes (after just one year of training), you can do anything you set your mind to. Fight forward!