Fat to Fit: Why I Race
It sometimes seems ridiculous that at almost 42 I will spend 15 weekends this year racing. In the past 12 months I’ve raced cross country mountain bike, American Ultra Cross, National Ultra Endurance mountain bike, cyclocross, marathon, half Ironman, and of course Ironman.
Hurling yourself down a hill on a mountain bike at 40 miles per hour isn’t the “normal” plan for a middle aged husband, father, friend, and business owner.
So why do I race so much? There are dozens of reasons I could list. Here’s the top ten:
10. I’m competitive.
Let’s get this out of the way up front. Yes I like to compete. There’s something deep in my spirit that likes to contend, put it out there, see what I have, and go after it.
It’s not about winning. It is likely that I will never win any race. But that doesn’t stop me from competing. Any race, any distance, any activity, I like to give it my all to the finish.
9. Racing Adds Variety
I know people that do the same exercise the same way in the same frequency every week. For those that can do that and get the results they want: more power to them. For years I ran 3-5 times per week at a slow pace and I couldn’t stay fit.
I’m easily bored and love to mix up my activities. That’s why I run, ride, swim, play ultimate, do crossfit, etc. It’s not that I NEED to do all those things to stay fit. I just find myself more consistent in my workout schedule if I do. Racing adds yet another element to the variety of activities that I do.
8. You Learn So Much Racing
There are lessons you can’t learn until you are at mile 20 of a marathon. There are lessons you can’t learn until you try to run your fastest 5k. You learn from doing well at a race. You learn from doing poorly at a race. You learn when things really don’t go your way at a race. You learn when you have the perfect race.
Racing is learning. And the lessons you learn translate into every other area of life.
7. Racing Marks Progress
My first marathon was 4:57. My next marathon was 3:59. Then 3:49. Then 3:46. I keep making progress.
Racing is the single easiest way to mark progress. Ironman at 13:13 was a great start. But I can do better. I know now that if I improve on my swim and let myself ride a little faster I might be able to shave 30-60 minutes off of that time.
It doesn’t have to be about distance and huge events like marathons and Ironman. My cousin Christy is taking 2013 and setting personal records at shorter distances. August 3rd she knocked off her 5 mile record. Earlier this year I ran with her in DC when she knocked off her 10 mile record.
It’s about progress.
6. Racing Is The Reward
If you’re committed to being fit then you are training no matter what. You may not call it that but that’s what it is. You put miles in, you go to the gym, you watch what you eat, you wake up at ungodly hours.
Racing is just the dessert. It’s where you get to appreciate and enjoy the benefits of training.
5. Racing Takes You Places
Who knew that New Paltz, New York was such a quaint little town? I had no idea that Lake Placid has produced a winter olympian for every winter olympics from a town of only 4500 people. That’s impressive. Eastern Ohio has a lot of amish people. Ducktown Tennessee might be the smallest feeling place I’ve ever been.
Even at home racing leads me great places. Running a marathon through my home town gave me new appreciation of how awesome Baltimore is. Riding the Patapsco 100 course opened up an entirely new area of riding for me that I’ve been enjoying ever since.
4. Every Race Is An Adventure
I had no idea what to expect when I got in the water at Ironman. Was my body going to feel good? Was I going to fall apart? Can I even finish one of these insane events?
Every race is a fresh adventure. I’ve got stories from every race. The 2011 Celtic Soltice was the hardest race I had done to date. I had to dig DEEP for the last 2 miles. Wildcat Epic was a mudfest that was downright funny by the end. The 2012 Turkey Trot was the first race my son Seth did. The feeling the last 9 miles of Ironman was endorphin laden euphoria I’ve never experienced before.
3. It’s All About The People
The first morning in Lake Placid I met Howard Glass. Howard is 72. At 68 he decided to try his first sprint triathlon after not working out for years. He said it was awful. But Howard kept going and by the time I met Howard, July 25, 2013, he was about to complete Ironman #7.
Every race I meet new people with great stories. Some are stories of overcoming challenges (my story is a dime a dozen in Lake Placid). Some are stories of huge accomplishment, like Mark Yost who I met in Lake Placid and qualifies for Kona year after year. Some are stories in the making, like my friend Brandon who wants to qualify for the Boston Marathon to raise money so he can adopt another child from the Congo.
Like most things in life: it’s all about the people.
2. Racing Is My Favorite Motivator
The single best way for me to stay motivated is to look at a calendar and see what race is coming up. Ironman kept me motivated for an entire year. It’s a simple reminder when I need one to get out of bed. It’s easy to run in the rain when you know it might rain on race day so you may as well get some practice in. Riding my bike in the heat is easier when I think: “it might be really hot at Mohican 100 next weekend, I should practice in the heat.”
If you want a good reason to up your fitness level pick a new challenge and get registered. It will get you moving.
1. Racing Is Fun
The secret behind racing for me: it’s really, really, really, fun. There’s a feeling you have when you finish a race that is hard to describe unless you do it. Whether you are just trying to finish your first 5k or set a record at an Ironman the emotions that go with crossing the line are intense. I don’t get those feelings lying on the couch. I don’t get them even going out for a run.
But when you cross a line, any line, for any event, there’s a very special moment. And you know, in that moment, that it was worth the price it took to get there.
Keep moving forward,