The day was February 21, 2008. I unexpectedly anchored Pitt’s 400 free relay at the Big East Championships. All throughout my senior year, I knew my last race of my very long swim career would be the 200 back at our conference meet. I swam distance free and backstroke in college and I am not a sprinter by any means. I wish I was, but I learned long ago that I do not possess those fast twitch muscle fibers. I would have love to swam the 50 and 100 free at every single dual meet instead of the 500 and 1000 free. If you know me, you have probably heard me call sprinters every derogatory name possible….. one’s which I cannot repeat on this blog. My coaches had other ideas that day in February, and put me on the relay after my 200 back prelim swim. We finished 6th and I earned my only Big East medal of my collegiate swimming career.
I could not have been happier to be finished. 16 years of competitive swimming will do that to you, just ask any other swimmer. I was burnt out. All the early morning practices, getting yelled at by your coaches, and swimming countless laps while staring at a blue line (Pitt’s was blue) became more of a job than something I used to do for fun. Sitting here today, I wouldn’t change any of it though. Swimming was the best thing to have ever happened to me and I am grateful I was able to swim at the Division 1 level for the University of Pittsburgh all 4 years. Swimming has molded me into the person I am today. It has taught me so many things over the years without me realizing it and prepared me to enter into the “real world” of a working professional. I have made so many friends over the years whom I will never forget. There will always be a camaraderie between swimmers, whether we’ve ever crossed paths or not.
Two months later, I graduated with a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering and started my first full time engineering job a few days later. I traveled significantly for the next few years for my job. I worked long hours and ate just about anything I wanted to without any care. I had zero motivation to do any physical activity those first 6 months after graduation. It just wasn’t a priority for me. After gaining some weight, I began lifting weights off an on for the next couple of years with a little running here and there. I hated running with a passion. My legs hated it, my mind hated it. It was just plain boring. Swimming was still not an option at this point in my mind. I wasn’t ready for it.
Fast forward almost 3 years later after graduation, I was in a pretty unhappy place. Frustrated with my life, job, career, and physique, I knew I needed a change but I didn’t know what. At the time my brother was living in St Louis and was home for a couple days. We went to the local Trek store and I found a road bike on sale. Ever since doing the Pittsburgh triathlon relay (swim portion) in 2004, I’ve always wanted to get into the sport of triathlon. Every year I would watch the Ironman World Championships on tv and I would say, “that’s going to be me someday”. I think I cry every time I watch it every year. Yes…. I’m a wuss. If you aren’t motivated to get off your butt after watching the race, your pulse needs checked…. seriously… watch the race this December, and I guarantee you will feel like you can run a marathon in world record time immediately after(yes I know feeling and doing are two different things but everyone could use the motivation). I always made an excuse to delay getting into the sport which was having a bike. Needless to say after that day at the Trek store, I no longer had an excuse and thus began a journey I wish I started long time ago.
What I soon realized was missing in my life: competition. Up until my last swim meet ever in college, I had always been competing in something since age 5. Whether that was soccer, swimming, baseball, hockey, basketball. Sports had been such a big involvement in my life, I don’t think I knew what to do with myself when I stopped swimming in 2008. Ask anyone that knows me…. I HATE LOSING…. period. Finishing anything but first was unacceptable. As a kid, I’ve been known to throw my cap and goggles after a bad race and added a few obscenities as I got older. Yes I was sometimes “that guy” behind the block.
I spent the next couple months training on my own with zero structure. I typically didn’t decide what I was going to do until 5 min before I started my workout. I got back to swimming again but I was enjoying it because it was on my own terms. I entered my first triathlon memorial day weekend 2011, a small local sprint. I have never experienced so many highs and lows ever in a race before. I was first out of the swim but then was passed by everyone in my wave on the bike. Here I was on my road bike, getting passed like I was standing still. The bike was 13 miles and I couldn’t have been happier to get off the damn thing.
I finished the race and at the time, I thought that was the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life.
During the rest of 2011, I went on to complete 2 sprints and 3 olympics with moderate success but I wasn’t satisfied. I decided in August 2011 to reach out to my college swim coach Eric Limkemann and began working with him the next day.
A few months later, I was offered a job in Florida. I had been pretty frustrated with my current job/career. I was ready for a change and ready to get out of Pittsburgh. I was born and raised in Pittsburgh (Go Steelers!). I had never lived more than 30 min away from home before and I didn’t know anyone in the Palm Beach area. To say I was taking a leap of faith and going to be out of my element, was an understatement.
“You can take a person out of Pittsburgh, but you can’t take the Pittsburgh out of a person”.
My 2012 season started off strong but ended with an injury. I took 3 months off during the off season to heal up and work on my house (this took up every weekend of my time). I started off 2013 in terrible shape but I’m now in the best shape of my life. I’ve made some huge gains this season and I just need to keep the ball rolling and finish the season strong.