Chasing Down a Childhood Dream: Update

After finishing up a swim this morning at my friend Matt’s master’s class, I mentioned to another friend of mine, who also had just finished up, “fuck this sport is tough!”  I’m ten months into this swimming experiment, and although it’s fun as hell, I feel like I did when I first started cross-country skiing about a year in:  sloppy!  Matt has certainly been a positive influence on my development as a swimmer. In this new sport of mine, there are seemingly endless learning opportunities in terms of technique.  Overall, I’m excited to put together the puzzle of nuances that it takes to get to the next level.  But damn, I can have some challenging days.  That’s OK because it is all a part of the process.

For just about a year (starting in March of 2018) I’ve been training full-time as a triathlete because of a desire to find out my true potential as an endurance athlete.  This whole dream and pursuit started back when I was fifteen racing Junior 2’s on the New England cross-country skiing circuit in 1995.  It was then that I shifted my hero’s focus from baseball legends, Mark McGwire and Bo Jackson, to the Olympians on the cross-country skiing circuit, Bjorn Daehlie and Vegard Ulvang, both powerhouse Norwegian skiers in the 1990’s.  For some reason, there was nothing cooler than watching Bjorn and Silvio Fauner (Italy) sprint it out in the 1994 Men’s 4 x 10-kilometer Olympic relay.  I was heartbroken when Italy edged Norway out for the win.

 

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Silvio Fauner (Italy) edges out Bjorn Daehlie (Norway) for the win in the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics, Men’s 4 x 10-kilometer relay

 

 

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My all-time sports hero, Vegard Ulvang (Norway)

 

Today, when I mean training full-time, I mean full-time, much like someone who goes into work for a typical forty hour work week.  Luckily, I’ve built such an enormous endurance base over the years through cross-country skiing, road cycling, ultra-running, and now triathlons, that I’m afforded the chance to train at a high level, a level I’ve never been able to sustain, until now.  Plus, being sober, I do not have the distractions of drugs and alcohol to get in my way.   That being said is the addictive behavior still prevalent?  Sure it is, but it’s now being directed in a positive and productive way…chasing down a childhood dream.  From an unhealthy perspective, I feel like I was lucky back in 2017 to train above my means and too hard so that now I can appropriately assess how my body feels on any given day, and listen to any alarming warning signs.  In a way, I’ve spent the last twenty-four years preparing for being where I am right now, in pursuit of my unshakeable passion.  I feel like I am finally able to put together all of the lessons I’ve learned along the way to create my own personal masterpiece over the next several years.

So, what does a typical day look like?  Let’s take today for example. For the most part, over the last ten months, this is a pretty typical day (not including days off from training which mean a whole lot of lounging around, eating, stretching, and foam rolling)

  • 5AM –  Alarm/coffee/snack/journal
  • 6:45AM – Master’s swim class (90 minutes)
  • 8:45AM – Breakfast
  • 9:00AM – Novo Veritas work/Rise Fitness client scheduling
  • 10:00AM – Nap with Emery
  • 11:00AM – Lunch/ couch time to get legs elevated
  • 1:00PM – Ride (2.5 hours)
  • 4:00PM – Stretch
  • 4:30PM – Call with a coaching client
  • 5:00PM – Client training at Rise Fitness
  • 6:30PM – Dinner
  • 7:00PM – Facetime with Tracey
  • 7:30PM – Journal/meditation/read
  • 8:30PM – Light’s out

 

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Preparing for nap time with Emery

 

For the first several months of this process, I had a tough time with feeling like I should be doing more with myself, feeling guilty that I wasn’t adhering to the typical work schedule I had kept for over a decade in the corporate world.  It was the “should” game, and I just had to be persistent on reminding myself that life today isn’t typical in the sense that I’m punching the proverbial clock every day to get a standard paycheck for two weeks.  Luckily through the wisdom of Mike Larsen (my coach, Larsen Performance Coaching) and the advice from a few other athletes I know, I was able to shift my mindset to understand that it takes, more or less, my current schedule of what I’m doing to reach my goals.  Now, I do not struggle with the “should be” concept at all, as I’m all in.

 

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Larsen giving some last minute words of wisdom at the 2018 Best in the West duathlon

 

Another challenge during my transition over to triathlons was to wonder how all the training was going to come together.  Sure, there were days before I started racing multi-sport when I’d just be living in uncertainty about what any outcome would look like, from a racing perspective.  Then, about eight months in, I witnessed first hand how all of the hard work was to pay off.  In November 2018, I traveled to Los Cabos, MX, to try my first Half-Ironman.  Without any real expectations, I ended up placing third in my age group (35-39) and qualified for the 2019 70.3 Ironman World Championships.  Completely stunned by the result, I began to understand how this new sport of mine was going to work.  That day was a turning point because now, I get it.

Also in Cabo, I had an unexpected chance meeting with now, two good friends of mine, Kennett and Adelaide, both professional triathletes, and tremendous people.  One thing I had not had a whole lot of up to that point, other than from Larsen, was a chance to pick the brains of triathletes who had made it to the level that I was shooting for.  Being able to talk to them about what living the lifestyle of a professional was like, I was able to better understand what I needed to do to make my dream come true.  Being completely new and green to triathlons their advice was invaluable for me to hear.

Finally, the key piece to my process is having a coach and mentor on board with my vision to help guide me through workouts, as well as the mental piece of the puzzle, on a day to day basis.  When I got back together with Mike, after spending a couple of years in pursuit of being a self-coached ultra-runner, he did not balk at the ideas I had come up with for a big picture goal.  For me, it took some vulnerability to express those goals with the fear of rejection, which was my own shit stemmed from old habits of persistent negative self-talk.  From day one, he was on board and has not looked back.

Then, I would be remiss to mention the haters.  I feel like people, including the clients Betsy and I (Novo Veritas) work with, who are looking to undergo a big shift in lifestyle, are unfortunately exposed to other people’s negative projections.  It always blows me away when someone wants to change and the people they surround themselves with (friends, family, or casual on-lookers) give their unsolicited negative opinions as to why their respective lifestyle changes won’t work.  I’ve encountered the same thing.  Here are a few things I’ve heard said to me about my pursuit of endurance sports, specifically triathlon:  “You’re never going to be a fast enough runner;”  “You’re too old;”  “You’ll inevitably overtrain;”  “You might be kidding yourself with your goals.”  At first, not surprisingly, hearing these comments pissed me off and I used them to fuel my workouts.  Then, after careful introspection and investigation, it turns out that these comments were mere projections.  Today, if and when I hear another negative comment I simply take whoever said it off my team and out of my circle.  At this point in my life, if anyone casts negativity my way, I simply move on because I just don’t have the energy or the tolerance to deal with bullshit projections based on other people’s personal insecurities.  Bottom line, if you’re also going through a positive shift in lifestyle, it really doesn’t matter what people think of you.  For me, what other people think of me is none of my damn business.

 

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Betsy and I, the Novo Veritas team

 

Each evening, before bed, I spend time reflecting on the day with my journal, which includes a section on gratitude.  For folks in recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction, this is a cornerstone in recommended daily habits. One item that consistently makes the top three list is being afforded the ability to train full-time.  I will be forever grateful to have the opportunity to pursue my passion 100%.  Recognizing this fact also allows me to not get caught up in my previously unmanageable and persistent results-oriented mentality.  Today, it’s all about process and “being” in each and every workout.

 

 

 

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