Jun 16, 2016
A few years back, I was given the opportunity to race for a team in the Bundesliga Triathlon Series (an elite German tri series). All of the races in this series are ITU elite style draft legal format, which I had experience in over the years, so I was excited, but also quite nervous. I had never been to Europe before, and now I was going to spend just shy of two months training and racing with some of the best guys in the sport, not to mention I couldn’t speak German at all. Prior to making my final decision, I must have gone back and forth 100 times. The money that the team was providing was contingent upon results. So, poor results=poor payout, which could leave me hurting. In the end though, I figured I would regret not taking this opportunity for the rest of my life. I hopped on a plane, and the rest is history. Looking back, I’m glad I seized the opportunity. The technical nature of the courses and the high level of competition made me a better athlete. It wasn’t always fun (I got lost on a run for almost 3 hours one time), but overcoming those stressful times only made me stronger. ~Matt Wisthoff
Many challenges come to mind, but one really sticks out in my mind as a valuable and life changing. When I was in college I had the opportunity to go to South Africa for my internship. I was one of the first students in my department to go to this country. I had never left the US before and I was going alone. I knew no one where I was going and really didn’t know what I was going to do as my ‘internship’ because again no one had done this before from ECU. Once the school semester was done I was able to backpack across all of Southern Africa which enhanced my journey even more. So to answer the question without going to into my thousands of stories, memories, and experiences…. taking on this internship (and backpacking) in a country thousands of miles away from everything I had known made me realize that adapting and accepting were key qualities that I really embraced. I had to adapt to life being different and accept that it was ok. I had to adapt that life needed to be simple and accept that simple was actually better. I had to adapt when things didn’t go as planned and accept that the new outcome as actually better than anticipated. I could go on… but what I learned from this journey were skills and valuable mindsets on how to handle ‘life’ whether I’m walking my dog or training for a race. ~Kristen Jeno
When I think about a time in my life when I embraced a challenge, July 17th, 2004 comes to mind.
During my early teens and all through my 20’s, I had become riddled with addiction. It started out fun, but by the end it had consumed me and ruined my life.
On that day in July, I was given a chance to embrace the challenge of giving up my addictions. It was scary. Based on past attempts to face my addictions, I knew it would not be easy. However, on July 17th, I knew I was done with my old life of addiction. My life was about to change. I gave up the fight that day and asked for help. The change was slow and hard. I did not always want to accept what was happening or that sometimes I didn’t know what to do.
Today I have an amazing life. Sometimes it feels as though I have been given a gift to have lived both of the lives that I have lived. I keep working and striving and asking for help everyday!
To me, the above journey parallels my journey through endurance sports. When I first started becoming involved in endurance sports, I was scared and was full of self doubt.
However, I asked for help (a coach) and I worked hard and learned more with each workout and each race.
At times, I have taken steps backwards and lost focus in my training. Sometimes I forget to have fun. More importantly, sometimes I forget where I came from.
When I started this endurance journey I was a addict, heavy smoker, way over weight and I could barely walk a lap at the track without feeling like I was going to pass out.
Through facing these challenges, I have learned some important life lessons that have impacted me in a very positive way.
I have learned that sometimes, the goals that feel unreachable, goals that seem like they are for someone else to reach, are the goals that are most worth going after. Embracing the challenge may hurt and be painful at times, but I promise crossing the finish line or reaching what seemed unreachable is so worth it! ~ Coach Brian
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
That is the challenge called life. Life is a river that flows through valleys and mountains making its own path, sometimes rising and harsh and sometimes smooth as silk. For me, it is truly impossible to describe one event where I embraced a challenge, because life is a challenge. It is living with tenacity, faith, self respect, respect for others, and the humility to navigate the ebbs and flows. The most “challenging” events are events which hide within my soul that are not to be spoken here in this context; however, I am reminded of the challenge that was set forth at 18 years of age upon accepting the Morehead-Cain Scholarship. When I accepted this invitation, I accepted the challenge to impact my community positively, profoundly, perpetually the people and pursuits that define my life. It wasn’t a simple collegiate scholarship, but a lifelong journey of learning and pursuit of positive change. I embrace the challenge to be a doer, a thinker, a dreamer and an adventurer. I embrace the Morehead-Cain Challenge to make a difference. ~Sami Winter
I remember training for a marathon a few years ago. A race that I audaciously challenged myself to set a new PR. This meant more mileage and workouts…and the one thing I knew for sure, consistency would make the biggest difference. I was
committed. Not just for me, but I wanted to be a good example to my children growing up in a world where childhood doesn’t include the physical activity they need. But, it would mean keeping a solid base during the hottest months of the year, watching my diet through Thanksgiving and Christmas, running through an ice storm, running in the freezing wind, getting up before the sun to complete 20 milers before my son’s soccer game, the flu, long runs in the drenching rain, pushing a jogging stroller for 50% of my miles, etc etc etc… all of this sounds so trivial after the fact, but in the moment they were reasons enough to skip numerous workouts. The problem is, excuses build on themselves. If I allowed one, then the next excuse would come easier and then the next much easier. So, I couldn’t allow them. The training paid off, and the race was amazing. But, that is not what I remember the most. What stands out the most were the hours I spent running the familiar routes that winter, the opportunity to run with my children and build up their running base, meeting my friend for a 2 hour run (instead of a drink!), and the tough workouts that became manageable because of the consistency. Prioritizing a healthy, active lifestyle isn’t selfish at all, it is necessary for all of us. Plus, it is FUN and rewarding- especially with a great community of friends and family to help keep you accountable! ~Faye Fay
I am unfortunately quite injury-prone and have had to take several extended breaks from running. The first few injuries I tried
to avoid situations involving running altogether. I wouldn’t go to practices or races and would try to forget about running until I healed. Eventually I learned that, even if couldn’t run, it was best to surround myself with the support of coaches, teammates, and athletes that I coach. It is possible to get as much, if not more, enjoyment from encouraging and supporting teammates as you do from your own training and competition. Teammates outlast injuries.
Preparing for my first Half Iron Man at Lake Logan last year I had several preconceived notions about the amount of swimming, biking, and running that I would have to complete to finish the race. A little comprehensive I kept piling the workload on top of itself and before I could take a breath I was drowning in my own fears! Each week went by as I trained for the race and I kept asking myself, “How am I ever going to complete 70 miles of work?”
So many factors are involved in completing in any sport but they seem to compound on top of each other during triathlon training. Regardless of my fitness I showed up on the starting line feeling very nervous and almost claustrophobic about the whole situation. I wasn’t sure if it was my fear of failure or the wet-suit that made me so compressed but I was in shock the moment I hit the water and the gun went off. It was very apparent I did not prepare myself well for the race. I immediately fell to the back of the swim while my chest tightened up on me and I flailed my arms everywhere. I panicked and quickly looked to the nearest water raft for a shameful escape from the race. As I floated wading in the water my breathing came back to me and my heart rate dropped to normal. At that moment as I looked at the athletes pulling ahead of me I decided that I was going to embrace the challenge before me. Even if I had to mentally exhaust myself to do it I was simply going to focus on each stroke of the swim, each push of the pedal, and each stride of my run.
I submerged myself under the water and took 4 fluid and long strokes towards the first buoy and when I came back up I could honestly declare myself a Triathlete. It wasn’t about tackling the 70 mile course but instead it was about managing each obstacle before me. I spent the entire training block and race preparations dwelling on this great wall that I had to climb, but in reality all I had to do was take one step at a time. Obstacles in life may seem much easier to overcome when we take a few deep breaths and a few steps back to take a look at what is right in front of us. That race I had the fastest run split and top 5 fastest swim split by simply focusing on each stroke and each stride of the race.
I was 23 years old and a college graduate. Yaaay! Now what? The economy was plummeting and there were no teaching jobs in
Michigan so I started looking elsewhere. My college friend Tim Nichols lived in Wilmington, North Carolina and was stationed here temporarily in the US Coast Guard. I came and visited him once and loved the place but couldn’t imagine moving away from home (Michigan). After some thought, and Tim’s invitation to move in with him, I found a personal training job at Gold’s Gym in Wilmington and decided to move 10 years ago August of 2006. I moved with $2,000.00 saved and arrived ready to work. What I didn’t know was that my “job” was a little different than I was sold on. I thought I was working for an hourly rate at the gym, instead of spending 2-3 months building my client base (which I have never done) to get paid at all. Sure enough, I was running out of money and couldn’t pay rent for 1 month. I was still positive, but I didn’t want to move all of this way and fail to make a living. So I started biking to Gold’s from Carolina Beach (about a 45 minute bike). I got into road racing again, and I began picking up clients at the gym, I spent all day at the gym making sure I was doing everything I could to get a full schedule. Soon enough, I was training from 5am to 12pm straight and 3pm to 8pm straight. I moved up from Trainer, to Assistant Manager, then Manager. The manager position was more of a business/sales Job and I wasn’t able to just train, so I decided to go back to training and began dabbling into Run Coaching. I started training runners for road races every Tuesday and Thursday in the Summer of 2007. I asked Kristen Smith (another trainer at the gym) to help me time. Tuesday, Thursday became Monday-Friday and we added Triathlon coaching. Without Limits was Born.
Since then, I have been able to live my dream and help people. There have been soo many more challenges on the way. The initial challenge of moving, and the pressure to not blow, it taught me to EMBRACE CHALLENGES! They happen for a reason, a purpose. Challenges aren’t put on you to tear you down, they are there to test you to see if you have matured to the next level……and break your perceived limits.
Reflecting back on my college days, I lived to run and to “party, I did both very well. I would run 20 milers in 2 hours, then 20 PBR’s to follow. I would crush a 3x2mile workout all under 10 minutes then spend the day celebrating with drinks. There was a problem, the two do not go hand in hand, ones a positive and ones a negative. One can only do both of these activities well for a short time. Slowly my night life started taking over and my running declined, eventually stopped. I had a series of events that lead me to getting kicked off of UNCW’s XC and Track teams and without the running my drinking started to take over even more aspects of my life than just affecting my running. I got to a point one night where I was tired of it and on a spur of the moment decision I decided to move to Asheville, without a job. One month after my move to Asheville I still could not find a job so in a last ditch effort I applied to two running stores and got a job at one, so I had to start running again. Slowly as I got back into the sport the itch to race again crept up. As my running picked up my drinking declined. I set goals, I wanted to be the best person I could be, I wanted to use my mistakes to inspire, to nudge others in the right direction. As I moved back to Wilmington 2 years later I came back a different man. With the desire to become the man and runner I knew I could be and with the help of friends at church, my family and my now wife I am embracing the challenge, no matter what comes my way to push and live the life I was designed to live, to be someone who inspires based on actions and integrity.