During Summer 2019, I trained for and competed in my first triathlon, Ironman 70.3 Atlantic City. Through the training and racing process, I developed a passion for the sport of triathlon and it has become an important part of my life. With a desire to push myself further, I registered for my first full Ironman in 2020. Not letting Covid race cancellations get in the way of my goal, in Sep 2020 I completed the self-organized Ironman IDIA- I Did It Anyway. You can read more about the personal importance of that race here.
Finally, in May 2021, I completed Ironman Tulsa with a time of 11:22:38. Being able to cross the finish line and hear my name called as an Ironman was an incredible feeling that made nearly two years of training all worth it.
After IM Tulsa, I shifted focus to train for an ultra-distance trail run. Curious to see how I could handle an all-day running event, I registered and completed the RunPA Trail Jamboree 12-hour endurance race in August 2021. I ended up running 57 miles over 12 hours and took first place overall for my first ever race win
Endurance training has become an integral part of my life and has taught me many valuable lessons about discipline, hard work, and goal setting. Completing a full Ironman was something I always viewed with a "Maybe one-day" attitude, thinking it was something far beyond my limits. I never thought I would attempt to do it at this point in my life, yet here I am now with two IM finishes and an ultra-marathon under my belt. I have learned the importance of not limiting oneself and I truly believe everyone is capable of more than they may currently believe.
Training and nutrition have also played in integral role in the most important aspect of my life- my Catholic Faith. Ironman training has taught me the importance of self-discipline, which has had direct correlations to my growth as a Christian. Just as I know I must put in difficult training hours to become a better triathlete, I know a life of regular prayer, especially at the most difficult times, is critically important to a healthy spiritual life and relationship with God. Knowing that all strength comes from Him, I begin and end each day and each workout in a prayer. I will also frequently incorporate prayer into training sessions. Some of my favorite ways to do this are praying the rosary while running or using long runs as prayerful meditations. I am still exploring ways to keep the Lord at the center of my training and to increase the complementary of Faith and Fitness, and I appreciate any suggestions in this regard.
"I raise my eyes toward the mountains. From whence shall come my help? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth."
Finally, I must give a quick shout out to Swole Catholic, a great organization working to combine Faith and Fitness, and I encourage you to check out their website if interested.
Inspired by athletes like John Joseph, Rich Roll, Brendan Brazier, and others, I adopted an entirely plant-based diet at the beginning of my IM training. This initially began as me experimenting to see how a plant-based diet would feel, but has since become an important aspect of my life. Switching to entirely plant-based has had many significant, noticeable changes in my life including sleeping better, feeling more energized throughout the day, better performance and quicker recovery between workouts. I have also done much research on the general health effects of plant-based diets and believe it is by far the healthiest way to eat (two of my favorite papers: Esselstyn, et al. and Barnard et. al). Further, the environmental benefits of a plant-based diet are significant and impossible to ignore by anywone wishing to reduce their environmental impact.
Beyond the health benefits, altering my diet has caused me to extend my creativity in the kitchen. Cooking is one of my favorite hobbies and I am now exploring recipes and foods I would otherwise have never thought to use.
For anyone looking to get an introduction to the benefits of a plant-based diet, I recommend the documentaries Forks over Knives and The Game Changers. The former focuses on general health benefits while the latter focuses on athletes.