It’s hard to believe that 2017 is coming to an end and we’ll be ringing in a new year in just a couple of days! Come midnight on Sunday, we’ll be looking back on the memories of 2017 and toasting to all that we look forward to and all that is to come in 2018.
For Christmas, my children gave me this metal print to hang in my apartment. It says, “I dream of a world where chickens can cross the road without having their motives questioned.” Funny, huh? How many times have you asked, “why did the chicken cross the road?” I feel like my children thought it was a hilarious print that would make people laugh, or be a great conversation piece. Well, I found the print quite inspiring and something I’ll talk about later.
Recently, Merriam Webster published its top 10 words for 2017 that include words like feminism, complicit, recuse, dotard, gaffe, and federalism. Events occurred during the year that caused increases in searches, across the country, for these words and made them more popular than others. Feminism was the word of the year, according to Merriam Webster.
Before we close out 2017, and all that it was, like Merriam Webster, I want to share some words that were meaningful to me this past year, words like blessed, relationships, work, triathlon, health, training, and motivation. Many special times, events and challenges throughout 2017 have caused those words to stick out more to me than others this year.
I will forever be grateful for the blessings in my life. I know I’m a blessed man and I wake up each day thankful for my children, those who love me, my health, and my work. There have been times when I have taken some blessings for granted. When things are going well, sometimes that’s easy to do. I strive every day to thank God and appreciate the blessings I have been given. 2017 was a year full of many blessings for me, blessings that I will always cherish.
I am thankful for my relationship with God and all He has given me, including the relationships and people He has put in my life, especially my children. I am grateful for the people who love me, encourage me, support me and who I know are always there for me. Relationships are so important and without the relationships I have in my life, 2017 would have been a much different year.
I started my current job on January 3, 2017 and can say, without a doubt, that it is the best job I have ever had. The work that I do is very fulfilling and provides me and my children the opportunity to do fun things and enjoy exciting adventures together. There has not been one day where I have dreaded my day on the job. My first year there has gone by fast, with tough learning curves and many challenges, but I am so grateful for the job that I have and I love it. I am employed by a great organization and work with some amazing people.
Triathlon, Health and Training
These three words go together and were a big part of 2017 for me. I started focusing on my health back in February and have found an addiction and a love for fitness, eating healthier and training for triathlons. I lost over 40 pounds this year, competed in two awesome triathlons and feel as healthy as I have felt in my life, even at 40 years old. While my training regimen has been a little off during the holidays and I have not eaten as healthy as I like lately, I am so excited to get back on a normal workout schedule as I prepare for the half Ironman triathlon, in Raleigh, on June 3. In fact, I believe it’s a swim and a run day, today.
Motivation, I believe, was my word of the year. It stood out and encompassed all those other words for me in 2017. As I look back on the past twelve months, the word motivation graced my vocabulary as much, or more, than any other word.
Motivation occurs within a person when there is a reason for acting on something or a willingness to do something. It all starts with a motive, a “why.” I’ve always been motivated, but in 2017, I found a deep motivation within myself and from others to be an even better dad, to be the best man I could be, to remember my mistakes and learn from them, and to help others. I was motivated to inspire, to train hard, try new things, seek new challenges, be healthy, find adventure and to live in the moment.
So, why did the chicken cross the road you may be asking? Was it just to get to the other side?
We don’t really know why, but I bet there was something, or someone, on the other side of the road that motivated her enough for her to cross the road.
I am grateful for 2017 and all that it was, but I am ready for a new year and I can’t wait to see what words are most meaningful in 2018.
I have my goals written down, I know what I want, what I want to achieve and like the chicken, I am motivated to go get it.
Why don’t you cross your road and go get what you want in 2018? I’m sure there’s someone or something that is motivating you. Go get it. If it’s something you really want or a goal you want to achieve, why not tri?
Why not? It’s a question, or is it? During the past five or six months, I have adopted “why not?” as somewhat of a new personal motto. “Why not” has become a way of life, an attitude to try new things, to take some risks. It has become my way of life, to be vulnerable, to chase dreams, to live.
Adapting this new “why not” lifestyle isn’t completely new to me, though. I’ve always had a natural desire to try new things, to give it a shot, take on a little risk and to have experiences. Before now, I seemed to come up with more excuses, was too lazy, too tired, or just too cheap to do things that I should have done, or at least tried.
I believe reflecting on my life experiences, life lessons, stumbles and successes, along with getting older every day, has made me realize that I must embrace this why not attitude more fully now.
Now, please don’t think my life has been void of great experiences. I’ve lived an amazing life, with awesome experiences, and tremendous blessings. It’s just at this point in my life, I don’t want to look back in 20 years and wish I would have tried something or given my kids new experiences that I could have with a little more of a “free-bird” attitude.
So, when did this revelation hit me, you may be asking?
There are a few, but one of the first things that comes to mind was on July 18th. I remember sitting on my couch and picked up a recently purchased Triathlon magazine to read. The first page I saw when I opened the magazine was a full-page ad for The Nation’s Triathlon, held in Washington DC in September. Having previously lived in the DC area, I knew about the event, but had never thought of competing in it until I saw that ad. At that moment, it hit me, “why not?” Two days later I had signed up and had everything booked to go to DC to race in The Nation’s Triathlon. Talk about spontaneity.
The race atmosphere in our nation’s capital and the entire experience in Washington DC that weekend was one I will never forget and one that I would not have had if I had not said, “why not.”
As most of you know, I have been committed to my training and exercise regimen over the past year. I have set goals of completing triathlons that seem so difficult and extreme. The decision to set these goals and commitments were made because I asked myself, why not?
I have enjoyed training and pushing myself to be healthier, not just for my own mental and emotional state, but also so I can enjoy being active and doing things with my children and loved ones, long into the future.
Yesterday, I woke up thinking it would be a normal Sunday for the kids and me. We would go to church, come back to my apartment, eat lunch, wrap Christmas presents and just hang out until it was time for the kiddos to pack up and go back to their mom’s house. There would have been absolutely nothing wrong with that being our Sunday together, but I had another thought! Why not?
“Hey kids, get dressed, I’ve got a surprise for you!” We loaded up and headed off to a new “Multi-tainment Center” that just opened with a fun “family-friendly” bowling experience and arcade at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort. The littles, as I call my two youngest, and I had a blast! My oldest chose not to go because she was stressed about getting her math homework completed and finishing To Kill a Mockingbird for English. We missed her being there, but had so much fun doing something spontaneous and different.
Why not? Why not live in the moment and live like there will be no tomorrow?
As Tim Robbins spoke, in my favorite movie, Shawshank Redemption, “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.”
Even with winter upon us here in western North Carolina, and over seven inches of snow on the ground right now, my training continues as I journey to complete a full Ironman in 2019.
My training regimen is a little different than it was leading up to some of my last races, but it’s still intense, nevertheless. Over the past month, instead of mostly running, I have added much more weight training and cross training to change it up and build strength. I have also joined some intense spin classes and a class that included TRX, a body-weight suspension system. I was so sore after that workout.
I have been able to get in the pool a few times too, something that I really enjoy. When I’m in the water, I feel so relaxed and calm. The water drowns out all noises and distractions and allows me to just be to myself for an hour or so.
Yesterday, I had an intense swim workout. Previously, I would just get in the pool and swim laps for 30 to 45 minutes, eyeing the clock on the wall every time I made a turn on the wall. Yesterday, though, I completed a good session that focused, not just on the distance, but my technique. For the first time this year, I used all the swim accessories, like the pull buoy, hand paddles, fins and the kick board. These accessories make me focus on having proper mechanics, helping me to be more efficient with my stroke. If I am going to swim over two miles in open water, I must be as efficient as possible, not only to finish the swim, but to have the energy left for the bike and the run legs of the race.
Last weekend, my sister Lacy and her husband Walker, invited me on a trail run with them. They are training for a marathon in February and wanted to run part of the course. Only once this year, have I run over ten miles; Lacy wanted to run twelve to fifteen, on a trail, and mostly up hill the first half of the out and back route.
I kept trying to find excuses not to go. When I would think about the run Lacy was describing, I feared the elevation change. As you all may have noticed from previous posts or my Instagram feed, I love running at the lake and my routes there are mostly flat as a board.
Mid-afternoon last Friday though, I thought why not, I can give it a shot. I am so glad I did. It was the best run I have done all year and motivated me to find more trails to explore, even if they are uphill
Last Saturday’s run was my first trail run. It was tough, increasing in elevation by about 1,800 feet, but it was over six and a half miles up, meaning it was a “gradual” incline. After we turned around, I found it more difficult coming down. While I could go a little faster, I had to control my descent, focusing on where my feet were landing. It would be so easy to twist an ankle, or worse, trip on a rock and face plant into the rocks and roots that made up this trail.
I am so glad Lacy and Walker encouraged me to run with them last Saturday. We ended up running over 13 miles and I found a new love for trail running. I look forward to the next trail run in my future. In fact, Lacy has invited me to run with them tomorrow, but I believe I have a pretty good excuse not too as there is seven inches of snow on the ground.
I feel my training is going well and I am feeling very confident where I am on my way to the half Ironman in 2018 and the full Ironman in 2019.
Have a great weekend everyone. If you’re in the path of the winter storm that is hovering over us right now, enjoy the snow and stay warm.
Dear time, please stop and let me enjoy this moment!
That’s exactly what I was thinking as I was sitting in church on Sunday, halfway through our pastor’s sermon. The church service was great. The pews were full of people, mostly in red, on this first Sunday of Advent. The music was incredible, as always, and the sermon was a good one, titled “Light in the Darkness.”
The service, the music, nor the sermon, all great, but none having anything to do with my desire to ask time to stop.
During the past year, being separated from my wife, I have struggled with many emotions, but none more so than worrying about the kids and how their little minds and hearts are handling it all. I worry about how divorce will impact their future, and selfishly, how it is affecting their relationship with me as their dad.
As their father, I want my children to know that I am always there for them, that I am strong, dependable and that my love for them is unwavering and that they should never, ever, doubt my love for them. I want them to know that while the relationship between their mom and dad has changed, the relationship between them and their parents has not changed one bit.
Going through separation and divorce, however, has made it difficult for me to remain confident that my children know that I am still their rock, that I am still there for them no matter what is going on in their lives.
I believe it has been difficult for me to remain confident in that because I can’t be with them, physically, all the time, anymore. I can’t always be there for them when they get hurt, or if they just want to hop up in my lap and snuggle like they previously could do.
The separation from my kids, when they aren’t with me, seems to allow doubt to creep into my mind, making me believe that their confidence in me, as their dad, has diminished for some reason. My mind goes into overdrive wondering, do they know that I will always be there for them, that I will always be the rock that they can lean on when they need me.
Sitting in the pew at church on Sunday, those doubts disappeared. Halfway through the sermon, Christopher laid his head in my lap and Hannah, my teenage daughter, gently laid her head on my shoulder.
For ten minutes, I could not think about anything else, other than the overwhelming feeling of affirmation that my kids knew their daddy was there for them, that I was their rock to lean on and they knew I would always be there for them!
We can’t stop time, but we can forever hold on to, and cherish, those special moments that make us wish we could.
As a footnote…. I wrote this draft sitting in the Barnes and Noble Sunday afternoon when tears started rolling down my cheek. A guy across the way noticed. At one point in my life I would have “manned up” and held in those tears…”men don’t cry.” But, Im not that man and I didn’t care what he thought may be going on in my life. I’m a dad and dads can cry.
Is an Ironman that superhero that uses his suit and special powers to protect the world and conquer evil? Is an Ironman what I want to be called when I complete the most challenging endurance race in the world, pushing my strength and endurance to their limits for over 140 miles?
The answer is yes, both descriptions fit the definition of being an Ironman. Recently though, I was struck by the question, “Matthew, what truly is an Ironman?”
That question got me thinking about being an Ironman in the context as a man, a dad, a son, or a friend. It got me thinking that an Ironman means being something much more than being a fictional superhero or an extremely fit endurance athlete?
Being a true Ironman really doesn’t require swimming, biking or running over 140 miles as fast as you can, or having fictional superhero super powers. Being a true Ironman means having the strength to stand up for and to fight for those you love. It means having the endurance to live each day with integrity and honor.
A true Ironman is strong, confident, and fully committed to protecting those who put their faith and trust in me. It means being the rock that those around me can rely on always being there. It’s having the strength, determination and courage to do what is right, even when it’s hard.
Being an Ironman is being patient when patience is being asked of me. It’s respecting the needs of someone else, even when it may mean having faith and letting go.
An Ironman is not the saying, but the doing.
It doesn’t sound like it would be all that hard to be this kind of Ironman, but it is. As parents, as adults, as human beings, we face challenges every day that test our abilities to be an Ironman for our children or those we love. We get impatient or we let pride and selfishness get in the way, keeping us from being what our loved ones need, or causing us to make choices that may hurt them.
Like in training for the ultimate endurance race, being a real Ironman takes determination and commitment. It’s learning from past mistakes and doing the next right thing that will allow me to be an Ironman and be a better dad and a better man.
Yes, I am going to continue to train to complete the world’s most challenging endurance race, but more importantly, I’m going to focus harder on giving everything I can to be a true Ironman each day for the ones I love.
I would rather my children call me an Ironman by the way I live my life each day, than as an Ironman who crosses a finish line at a race.
So, I have some news to share: I won my age group at the 10k race that I ran in Hilton Head this past Saturday. Sorry for the late post about it, but it’s been quite the week; a busy week, an emotional week, but a good week. My goal in the race, my first stand-alone 10k, was to place, meaning first, second or third in my age group. Not only did I accomplish my goal of placing, but I won my age group. I am so excited about how I ran, averaging seven minutes and twenty-six seconds per mile for the race.
During the first mile, my pace was a quick seven minutes and ten seconds per mile. I pulled back a little as I didn’t believe that I could sustain that pace for the entire race. As I settled into a pace just under seven minutes and thirty seconds per mile, I started to feel very comfortable, that is, until I approached the bridge. The bridge wasn’t a very long or steep incline, especially compared to lots of the hills I run here in Western North Carolina, but there was a thirty mile per hour wind in my face during the climb. The wind, along with the incline, caused my pace to slow down to eight minutes and thirty seconds per mile. Fortunately, on the way back across the bridge, during the last mile and a half of the race, the wind was at my back. That’s when I increased my pace, allowing me to finish 13th overall in the Hilton Head 10k Bridge run.
It was a rather short weekend in Hilton Head going down on Friday and back on Saturday, after the race, but it was such a great weekend. The restaurants we tried were delicious, the race was fun and even conversation time driving in the car was special. I really enjoyed the quick trip to Hilton Head and can’t wait to return to spend more time there.
Since returning on Saturday, I have begun my off-season training to prepare physically and mentally for next year’s triathlon racing season. Right now, I feel like I do need to decrease the amount of days I train from six days a week to four or five days a week. I have learned that listening to my body is very important with triathlon training. Doing so, allows muscles to rest and to avoid injuries from overuse. For me, cutting back on the volume of exercise, for a few weeks, is the right thing to do to allow my body to get a little more rest.
I have enjoyed a good week of training, though. I had a great session in the pool, I joined an excellent spin class and I have pounded the pavement a couple times too, even in the cold, frosty mornings. Since I have spent the past couple of months focused mostly on running, it has felt nice to mix it up with some training sessions in all three triathlon disciplines again.
This week, my training has also been more of a mental escape than it has in the past too. My training has always kept me mentally and emotionally focused, but this week, much more so and much needed. You know, it’s just been one of those weeks, with a lot going on in the life of Matthew these days.
Next week is Thanksgiving and I am looking forward to it. I have so much to be thankful for and I love reflecting on those blessings in my life. While I am sad that I won’t be able to spend Thanksgiving with the kids, I hope to enjoy a nice hike or two and help to prepare and partake in a nice traditional Thanksgiving meal.
My favorite dish to eat at Thanksgiving is sweet potato soufflé, the kind with the crunchy buttery pecan crust on top. I plan on a few good training sessions between now and then so I can eat as much of it as my belly will hold. I feel like I deserve it.