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Fat to Fit: The Thank Yous

I woke up early this morning. Woke up, made coffee, lit a fire, and started writing. There’s just enough snow on the ground in Garrett County to make it a beautiful morning to sit inside by a fire looking out over Deep Creek Lake.

I set out to write a recap of 2013 races and events. I couldn’t do that without reflecting on the year. And the more I reflected on the year, the more I realized I couldn’t write about 2013 results without writing something else first. So 2013 results will have to wait.

If I count correctly, I raced 17 events this year. That’s one out of three weekends on average. Some of these races are short and close by. Most were long and involved a drive of 5 hours or more (12 hours was the longest drive). Most required the better part of a weekend traveling somewhere.

I trained 613 hours in 2013, according to Strava. That’s 12 hours per week on average.

That doesn’t happen without a lot of support, encouragement, guidance, grace, and inspiration. There are a lot of people to thank in my life for 2013. And while I HATE the idea of forgetting someone,which I will, it’s is only fitting that I thank some people in my life for their help in 2013. Other than the first two, there is no priority in this list. I’m grateful for all of them alike.

20131129-Rittler Family Christmas 2013-2Elise

There is an ancient scripture that describes wives:

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.

Elise and I celebrated 22 years of marriage last week. I couldn’t be more thankful for someone in my life than I am for Elise. It hasn’t always been easy. Marriage has been more work than I ever could have imagined. But the reward has been remarkable in every way.

Elise has been my biggest champion, fan, encourager, challenger, and catalyst. She has taken many of my very sharp edges and softened them, and sharpened edges that were too soft.

I am blessed beyond measure.

Caleb Josh Riley Seth RittlerCaleb, Josh, Riley, Seth

I get a fair amount of eye rolling around my house. Usually in response to making some joke about bikes, my athletic “career”, or food I’m eating or not eating because of [name race I did] or [name race I’m going to do]. They give me a hard time.

But my kids have been both a tremendous support and a huge inspiration for my journey as an athlete. They have cheered me on at many finish lines. They have given me time and space to workout. They are flexible when I say, “Let me just go for a quick run before we go do that.” They have been proud of my accomplishments. Josh is the first to text me at the end of every race: “Congrats!” or “How’d it go!” or “Way to go pops!” Riley regularly tells me how proud of me she is for getting healthy. Seth wears his Ironman t-shirt (the one with my name along with all the other finishers of Lake Placid on it) and tells his friends about my races. Caleb teases me for always trying to “drop weight,” often unsuccessfully.

I couldn’t be more proud of my kids. To know the feeling is mutual is priceless.

Joe Traill Joe's Bike ShopJoe Traill & Joe’s Bike Shop

I walked into Joe’s bike shop in May with a broken down bike that I needed for a race in a few days. I was hoping they would say they could get my bike ready for the race. Instead, Ethan asked me if I had 20 minutes (which I did) and then fixed my bike on the spot. I’ve been in Joe’s 50 times since then. Joe’s is a great place.

And Joe is a great guy. I chase Joe around the woods on Wednesday mornings. Joe has wicked skills on a mountain bike.

I heard a story about Joe from one of my friends. My friend’s son was in Joe’s mountain bike camp as a kid. A few years later, he was in an accident while riding on the road. When Joe heard he jumped on his bike and rode to the hospital to make sure he was ok and  see if there was anything he could do.

If you know Joe that doesn’t surprise you. Joe’s just that kind of guy.

Chris Newell Coach

Chris Newell

Chris Newell has been my coach since May. At the time, I was trying to figure out how to train for endurance mountain biking, Ironman Lake Placid, running events, and Ultimate each week. I was a training nightmare for most coaches. I was trading quality for quantity. I was not prioritizing my training by what I claimed to be my most important events. I didn’t know what structure in training looked like.

I liked Chris from our first meeting. What stuck me the most was his individual approach. Chris doesn’t have a training plan for a particular discipline that he simply copies and pastes for each athlete in Training Peaks (the software he uses for coaching each athlete). Nor does Chris say, “this is how I did it so this is how you have to do it.”

Instead Chris takes a highly individual approach. He looks at each athlete and watches them over time. Learning how they tick, what they like, how their body (and mind and spirit) respond to training. Then he guides them to maximize their performance.

Multiple times during the last seven months I’ve asked for a significant change in my training schedule. Chris’s response is usually “let’s give it a try and see what happens, we are still learning what works for you.” Occasionally he says, “You can do that but it’s going to hurt your performance in an event.” And then rarely he will say, “don’t do that and here’s why.” I trust Chris implicitly with my training.

Chris has guided me far beyond where I would have gotten on my own. I was as prepared for Ironman Lake Placid as anyone on the course. I was physically and mentally ready for the hardest athletic challenge of my life.

Ironman Lake Placid was followed by a progression of races where I made leaps and bounds of progress. I steadily improved my National Ultra Endurance race results from the back of the pack to the top third including a 12th place overall finish at Fools’ Gold 100 hundred in Georgia. I placed 16th in my age group at Ironcross in Pennsylvania. Then I had a personal record 3:25 marathon at the Baltimore Running Festival.

I’m not the fastest guy out there, but Chris’s coaching led me to results beyond what I could have anticipated at the beginning of the year. I can’t wait for 2014. I want to maximize my potential and push my limits.

Blue Ocean Ideas 2013Brody & Blue Ocean Ideas

Brody Bond is my business partner and one of my closest friends. I spend more time with Brody than anyone else in life.

I regularly tell friends asking for business starting advice to avoid partnerships. Especially with good friends. It’s a good way to ruin a great friendship.

But somehow Brody and I have continued to grown and thrive together at Blue Ocean Ideas and as friends. I am gifted with the most talented creative and strategic mind I know as a business partner. And even more gifted with a friend that encourages, leads, admonishes at times, and generally makes work a place that I love to go and do what I do.

The entire team at Blue Ocean Ideas is a gift. I share with them every year around the holidays how much I appreciate each one of them (they remind me that I give the same speech every year). It goes like this:

Each of us has a most precious commodity in life: time. You’ve chosen to share yours with Brody and I. We’ve chosen to share ours with you. I’ve been around long enough to know that work should be a place where people can enjoy being together, accomplish huge tasks, and thrive as a team. You all enable us to do that and each of you is imperative to our success.

Thanks to Anna Grace, Chris, Maggie, and Brian for giving your time and talent to us and to our clients.

Chris Beck MTB RacingChris Beck

I first started stalking Chris Beck in 2012 when I would scope out his mountain bike ride at Loch Raven so I knew where to ride. I would download one of Chris’s rides on to my Garmin and use it to navigate trails that I had never been on before. No one knows the trails better than Chris. Chris is a local legend.

Recently he has taken up trail running. Not long ago Chris beat me while running on the trails. No surprise there except I was chasing him on a bike. Chris is a gifted athlete.

Chris has won many of the races that I compete in. Chris has fielded more of my bizarre race preparation questions than anyone else. I don’t personally know anyone that understands how to prepare for and race endurance mountain bike races better than Chris. I’ve added a WWCD (What would Chris do?) thought pattern to my life as I prepare for and race National Ultra Endurance races.

I fuel the way Chris fuels, I prepare my bike the way Chris prepares his bike, I race the way Chris would race (only a LOT slower). Chris is an excellent coach and race strategist.

Chris is also a good friend and behind his UBER competitive personality he is a kind and generous person that regularly inspires me.

Andrew Dunlap MTB RacingAndrew Dunlap

In 2013, I logged more training hours with Andrew than anyone else. I estimate that we rode about 150 hours together in 2013. Andrew and I share a “get out and ride as much as you can” insanity that makes riding together often work.

20 degrees? Andrew will ride. Pitch black? Andrew will ride. Raining? Andrew will ride. 5am? Andrew will ride. Snowing? Andrew will ride.

Andrew is one of the most encouraging people I know. Riding with Andrew is like bringing a bottle of emotional performance enhancing drugs on a ride with you. I get a “Way to go Rittler” or “dude you crushed that hill” as I huff and puff after a serious effort. Andrew is always encouraging those around him.

Andrew is in a different class of rider from me altogether.  Our relationship benefits me far more than him as I chase. He pulls me to a much higher performance.

Jeff Dudley Baltimore Running Festival Corrigan SportsJeff Dudley

Jeff Dudley is my most frequent running companion. When I began running seriously in 2011, Jeff was the guy that I said “I want to learn to run like that guy.” Jeff has been my frequent running partner ever since.

Like Andrew, Jeff is always up for the run. We’ve done rain, snow, ice, heat, wee hours, etc.

Running with Jeff is like getting a spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional boost all in one experience. Jeff is a mentor and friend in all aspects of life.

He’s fast too. Jeff paced me for the first half of the Baltimore Marathon which lead to a personal record, 3:25. I still have yet to catch any of Jeff’s times for any race distances that I have done.

Pat Blair Stoopid 50Pat Blair

Pat Blair was one of my first inspirations on the bike. He is the co founder of my team, Adventures for the Cure, and one of the most inspiring people I have met.

No one I know works as hard as Pat on the bike. And Pat has a long list of impressive race results to show for it.

Pat Blair was my coach for the first third of 2013 until he realized he couldn’t talk me out of running and doing the Ironman. At which point, he kindly suggested I might not be the best fit for his cycling focused training. No one understands singular focus and the benefits from making tough choices like Pat.

I owe a lot to Pat. Not the least of which is his role in leading Adventures for the Cure.

AFC TeamAdventures for the Cure

Adventures for the Cure is to blame for most of my racing madness as I try to be the most fit 42 year old that I can be. When I joined the team I had no intention of racing at all. I just joined to be a part of a group of folks that loved being healthy and challenging themselves.

About a month after joining AFC, Pat encouraged me to try a mountain bike race. Five minutes into the race, I was hooked. The challenge factor, speed, camaraderie, battle. I love all of those aspects of racing.

I also found in AFC the spirit of “coopertition” that I admire most in the athletes that I want to be like. There are some SERIOUSLY  competitive team members on AFC that are also the kindest and most encouraging people I’ve met.

Thanks to everyone on the AFC team for encouraging me in my pursuits and giving me the opportunity to be a part of a a great group of people doing great things in the world.

Gratia GratefulGratia

I’m regularly reminded as I look at my calf to be grateful. Grateful for life. Grateful to God. Grateful for Grace.

And I’m grateful for people. People are the essence of life. It’s all about people. I’ve been surrounded by some stellar people.

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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