What Now!?!

I wouldn't say I'm depressed.  None of that big post-race letdown.  Actually I'm enjoying a bit of time off and resuming some balance in my life.  Time with the family and getting on top of work.  Money has been very tight (I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir for many), so I'm focused on bringing in some dough.

But in the back of my mind is: what's next?  I am already getting enthused for the next challenge.  I need to put some thought into what I want to accomplish athletically in '09.  With the huge base I have, I am thinking about working intensively on my running and popping off a good LA Marathon in March.  Then maybe Wildflower or Vineman?  But I think I'm set on going back to Ultraman as my key race for next year.  I thought about trying to qualify for IM Kona, but its just so competitive in my 40-44 age bracket, maybe I should wait on that until I age up.  Focus now on some ultra events -- Bulldog 50K (in my backyard), a double marathon, I dunno.  If you have any interesting ideas for me, I'm all ears.

On another note, I wanted to set the record straight on something.  I'm no pro athlete.  Yeah, I swam in college.  At Stanford.  With world record holders.  But I wasn't one of them.  I was good.  But not great.  I was lucky to score a point or two in a dual meet, but never met the qualifying standards for the NCAA Championships or the Olympic Trials.  We won 2 NCAA Division I Championships while I was at Stanford, but since I fell just shy of the qualifying times, I didn't make either of those trips.  I was on the team, but no rings.

After college, I began a slovenly 15 year descent into alcohol addiction that came close to killing me, and those around me.  By 32, I was basically a broken man -- unemployable and alienated from my family and friends.  Its a long boring story.  But needless to say, during those years there was absolutely nothing athletic about anything I did.  I got drunk.  I fell down.  I crashed cars.  I got DUI's.  I never showed up.  I was an asshole and a liar.  It was a dark time.  But through the grace of God I was able to get sober in 1997 and begin the long slow process of piecing my life back together.  It wasn't easy.  

And for the next 9 years, that's what I focused on.  After a year of sobriety I met the love of my life and we have been together ever since.  10 years later and again through God's grace I am still sober, happily married, self-employed and the father to 2 wonderful little girls and 2 stepsons, who make my world go around.

But from 1998 through most of 2007 I barely lifted a finger.  I was completely sedentary for the most part.  By October 2007 I weighed 198 lbs (30 lbs more than I currently weigh) and decided to make a change on my 40th birthday.  I got a bike for my birthday (I hadn't ridden a bike in about 18 years) and decided to get "active".  There was no big goal.  Just wanted to get my blood moving again.  But like a good addictive personality, once I started riding, I wanted more.  But again for the record -- I'm no bike racer and I'm certainly no born runner.

On New Year's Day 2007 I decided to do a 7 day "cleanse" and went vegetarian.  Two months later this morphed into a total vegan diet.  It felt really good.  I started working out more and some weight gradually started to come off.

But I was still a weekend warrior -- one ride a week and maybe a 45 minute run or swim here and there; nothing to write home about.  I tried the Wildflower long course triathlon in the Spring of 2007 and DNF'd.  The bike killed me and I quit 1/2 mile into the run.  I was pissed and decided (again gradually) to start training a bit more.  Just on my own.  I entered the Long Beach Marathon but ended up walking after 18 miles (told you I can't run).  Not impressive.

It wouldn't be until May of this year that I would hire Chris Hauth as my coach and begin to "train".  I looked around to try to get into an Ironman race, but all the races were sold out.  I had no idea that you had to sign up a full year prior.  What was I going to do?  I'm officially "training" with no race!  I had read an article about David Goggins and Ultraman and was instantly captivated.  It just sounded like the coolest thing ever -- what a great way to celebrate 10 years of sobriety.  I have no idea why, but I felt compelled to do this.  So I just called up the race director and asked if she would let me in!  I had no idea what I was undertaking, nor what I was asking her to do.  Here I was, a duffer.  No IM experience.  No ultra running.  My only attempt at something like a half-ironman resulted in a DNF.  Not even a decent marathon result to fall back on.  But Jane was gracious and open.  And after a few weeks of decent training my coach e-mailed her and told her he would have me ready.  That made the difference and she let me in.

I stuck to Chris' training plan.  I think I only missed about 4 workouts in 7 months.  I was terrified.  Only 7 months to go from duffer to Ultraman.  But somehow I did it, and often against the protestations of some people close to me who said I was taking on too much.  That I was risking my health.  That it was foolish or compulsive or the manifestations of "untreated alcoholism".  But with the help of so many people, and in particular the unwavering love and support of my wife and my coach, I saw it through to a fantastic and life-altering result.

Not only did I finish Ultraman, I raced it!....I was competitive!  I was riding and running with world-class athletes that have been doing this race and other insane ultra events for years, and in some cases decades.  Guys who have been racing their bikes and going pro and breaking records and running fast for the better part of their lives.  And although I'm not saying I was up there with them, I was in the 'hood.  In the mix.  11th overall.  3rd best American.  I still can't believe it.

This is all a very long way of saying that I am nothing special.  God inspired me to do this.  I trained hard and was supported.  But I'm just a regular guy.  Married with kids and a career who somehow pieced this crazy adventure together.

I'm not saying that I'm anything special. 

I'm not saying Ultraman is for everyone or that everyone should try it. 

I'm just saying that you just might be more capable of achieving something (anything) you think you can't.

I'm just saying there's something to be gained by exploring yourself outside your comfort zone.

Because from where I sit, and where I was 10 years ago, its almost unfathomable to see where I now reside.


DG said...

Awesome transformation Rich! Goes to show that anything is possible if you want it badly enough. Can't wait to see what '09 holds for ya!