Have you ever told yourself, there’s no way I could ever run a 5k, half-marathon, or even a full marathon? I’ve been in that group before. I’m a regular guy, not some crazy athlete or runner. I was 29 when I completed my first 5k run, so proud to hit 3.1 miles on the treadmill at the gym. It was a huge mental hurdle and accomplishment. So where do you go from there?
In 2016 I completed a full Ironman triathlon (2.4 mile open water swim, 112 mile bike ride, 26.2 mile run – in that order having to complete it in under 17 hours). I am by no means some hardcore athlete and 10 years ago you could ask me if I would ever entertain doing an Ironman triathlon and I would tell you those people are crazy. Who would do something like that? There is no way I could complete something like that, no way. So how did I complete something like this?
What I am trying to illustrate is that it’s the power of personal challenges and continually moving the bar forward, slightly pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone in which an extraordinary life is achievable.
I started a new job in 2011 and within 6 months I was bored at work (I wish I could say that now!). I had always been a swimmer growing up but had a fear of open water swimming and what could potentially be beneath me. Being bored and unhappy with my physical appearance I decided to challenge myself to something physical. Why not swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco? I did a quick Google search and found an event company that puts on an Escape from Alcatraz swim. In paying the registration fee I was committed. Funny how when you put your own money on the table you feel there is no other option but to complete what you paid for. After all, we all want to get our money’s worth, right?
I did most of my training on my own, which in hindsight I would not do again. I found that training with others not only pushes you to do better but it’s also an opportunity to meet new people to share the experience with. Surround yourself with like-minded people. I did an open water training session with a group of swimmers at Aquatic Park in San Francisco to get ready for the event and to get used to wearing a wetsuit in 58F water.
After 4 months of training I was ready. I joined a few hundred other athletes on a ferry that positioned itself just adjacent to “The Rock” and one by one, like lemmings off a cliff, we jumped into the frigid San Francisco Bay waters and started our swim to shore. The water was cold, there were waves splashing in my face as I tried to breath, all I could think about was following through on what I trained for and envisioned the end, getting up out of the water and running across the beach to the finish line with my family and other spectators cheering me on. When that time finally came there was this huge sense of accomplishment! I did it! Holly shit, I just swam from Alcatraz!
Can a regular person swim from Alcatraz? What if you don’t know how to swim? Is it still possible? The answer is YES IT IS! I have met numerous people while competing in triathlons that started out as either a weak swimmer or not knowing how to swim at all. These athletes, through consistent training, coaching and perseverance have been able to overcome fears, develop skill sets and go on to complete open water swims. It is possible to reach a goal that may seem unobtainable to the regular person.
qI love setting a goal and then executing, but the problem is that elation and high feeling you get slowly fads away. I then fall into a funk, training tapers off as there is no “goal” to work towards. I get depressed and then to break the cycle I figure out a new personal challenge. From my Alcatraz swim I launched into doing sprint triathlons which lead into challenging myself to do something bigger and crazier, could I do a half marathon and ultimately a half Ironman, also known as Ironman 70.3?