HomeathleteFat to Fit: The Ironman Story

Fat to Fit: The Ironman Story

Kona Inspired 2013The older I get the more I realize how important every moment is.

February 21, 1982, 11 year old Greg Rittler watched the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii on NBC’s Wide World of Sports. My favorite childhood television show.

I was in awe of the athletes I saw on the 19″ big tube TV in our small family room. My eyes were glued to it and my ears took in every word the announcers said. I couldn’t believe anyone could actually complete the Ironman. In my 11 year old mind these heroes were the greatest athletes in all the world.

Fast forward 28 years.

December 18, 2010, 39 year old Greg Rittler is sitting in a lazy boy recovering from a simple gallbladder removal surgery. In my case maybe not so simple. What should have taken 45 minutes took four hours and the surgeon gave it to me straight when I woke up:

Greg if you get healthy now you’ll live a long life. Keep going the way you are going and your life will be dramatically shortened and you’ll be looking at a liver transplant within a few years.

I hadn’t reached 40 yet and I was overweight, my blood pressure was high, and my liver was damaged. That was the awakening.

Four days after surgery, I watched the 2010 Ironman World Championship while I was recovering sitting in that lazy boy. 28 years after my first viewing, I was still in awe of the iron athletes on the screen.

A switch flipped inside of me in that moment.

At the time, I could not have imagined becoming an Ironman. But I knew I needed to change. So I began making changes. Slowly but consistently I changed.

Fast forward 2 years.

I’m in Stone Harbor, NJ with my family on vacation. Sunday July 22, 2012, I track my new Strava & Facebook friend Courtney as she competes in Ironman Lake Placid. 30 years later, I’m still in awe that anyone can even finish an Ironman event. Late in the evening, I see Courtney crosses the finish line. She’s an Ironman now.

The next afternoon, I’m sitting on the beach looking at the Ironman Lake Placid website on my iPad. Ironman Lake Placid is notoriously difficult to get in to. The race sells out in a few hours and I’ve heard it is very difficult because of all the web traffic to register when they open registration. Here I am sitting on the beach and there’s a “Register Here” button staring at me from the middle of the screen.

A few touches on the screen and I’m in. I emailed my registration confirmation to Elise with a simple message:

Officially insane. Now we just need to find a VW bus for the trip.

July 28, 2013, 41 year old Greg Rittler will compete in the Ironman Lake Placid. Pinch me. A couple of years ago I was a fat guy looking at a pretty dismal future.

Every moment matters. String together a few (with a lot of hard work in between) and life can change dramatically.

Keep moving forward,


P.S. I have a once in a life time opportunity to compete in the same Ironman race that 11 year old Greg Rittler watched in 1982, The Ironman World Championship in Hawaii. I’m entered in a contest called “Kona Inspired” where they select a few athletes that have demonstrated the Ironman mantra “Anything is Possible.” If you want to help me get to Kona there are three ways you can help:

1. Watch my story here:
2. Vote by clicking “Vote for This” below the film.
3. Share this link with your family and friends and ask them to do the same:


Written by

I am the CEO of Blue Ocean Ideas, a creative agency in Baltimore, Maryland. My job is to clarify the strategy and take care of my team. I am married to the beautiful Elise Rittler and we have four great kids. When I’m not at Blue Ocean Ideas or with my family I am riding a bike, running, playing ultimate frisbee, eating, or sleeping. There is a little more about me here.

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