That’s all she wrote.
The tribe has spoken.
Stay Classy San Diego
And that’s the way it is
After a couple decades of aerobic ambition, the measure of my life will cease to be in the depth of my sweat puddles or the speed in my legs.
For those of you debating whether to go for the Olympics, I wouldn’t trade the past years for anything. I wondered for a long portion of my career is if I was good enough to compete. If I had the talent to ‘make it.’ We are all good enough to compete. It is never a wasted opportunity if you give your all. There was much else I could have done, but finding that passion which enabled me to strip away everything else for a glimmer of success was transformative.
And hopefully I won’t come to see the past four years as an athletic version of A Beautiful Mind
The speed is there!!! I tell you it is. The perfect training plan – I can SEEE it!
Maybe those moments of obsession were unhealthy, but for those moments I was who I wanted to be:
“When you break through the cloud cover you realize that above the passing squalls and doldrums there is a realm of eternal sunlight” Tim Kreidle
Coming down from that passion, the past couple months I’ve been aggressively trying to find some calm and nail down why I retired when I was entering the prime of my career.
Succeeding as a professional triathlete is only partly athletic. It is also the ability to survive years of an unpredictable grind.
Only chumps proceed without knowing the proper grind
The difficulty simply begins with the ceaseless training and constant fatigue. What follows is the inability to have a semi-permanent home while spending months traveling to races and competing. With injury risk, changing race goals, sponsorship obligations, and training plans which are constantly being fine-tuned, the mental challenge is having a life constrained within each day, while goals can only be achieved months or years in the future. To seek an Olympic Team is to step into an uncertain void, and realize that every other priority has become meaningless. It becomes impossible to plan more than a day in advance.
And that made the last 6 years incredible.
Triathlon mandated full time commitment and had the finances available to enable it, which pushed me to find that “best” is not a static measure: it’s a moving goalpost which I had to constantly search for a way to push forward. USAT made this possible from my earliest days in the sport and I, along with many other athletes, wouldn’t have had a career without their help. My parents couldn’t have been more supportive, even if they’re relived I’m retired. I had phenomenal sponsors, Kestrel, Brooks, ROKA, NYAC, who made it possible for me to live this lifestyle with no holds barred. The Triathlon Squad provided an environment which was built on work ethic, focused on results, and pounded home the mantra to simply do your job. As my athletic ambition became more outrageous, it became clear that I was in a place where limits did not exist.
I found the real difficulty of professional sport lay in finding the meaning in continuing to compete at that level: moving forward and giving back sufficiently to reward all the people who helped me.
Many other triathletes have found meaning and convey it well, but I couldn’t see myself figuring out a personal way to engage with triathlon, or anything else, meaningfully while still competing at the highest level. There’s no way I’d be the person I am today without the last 6 years, but I didn’t know how to use the next 6 to give back as much as I’d received.
That all is what went through my head when I was offered a job with Visa. Since the last time I saw them was while watching Tyler Durden’s exploits, those emotions were coupled with the surprise that they’d been able to rebuild…
Fight Club Joke! Visa Exploded!
What excited me most about Visa, and the payments industry in general, is that it touches nearly everyone on the planet. If I do my job well, I can have an impact on a mind boggling number of people. I know how hard it is to reach the highest level in athletics and it will require an equal level of dedication to be satisfied with my contribution to Visa. The longer I wait, the less I’ll be able to explore the possibilities offered and find the one I’ll try to master.
And hopefully it doesn’t turn into years of me defending my stapler.
As I contemplated retirement, my biggest fear was that I would not find the community that exists in triathlon. That I would miss the constant challenge, and the ability to measure improvement and performance. To see in others the recognition that sacrifices are investments and gratification is the dish that’s best served cold. I took this step because I believe I will find something else where I can contribute more, engage better, and give back equally and earlier.
Having retired is about as hard as I expected it would be, which is to say that has been extremely hard.
The most difficult part has been trying to prioritize. It used to be so simple! Will x make me better at triathlon? No. Okay. Let’s not do that, then.
After reiterating that process a thousand times, I’d cut down my competing priorities until triathlon was all that was left. I had looked at what I wanted out of these past four years, and the Olympics became the only thing that truly mattered. Everything else could be dealt with later.
Now, I’m attempting to redig those priorities out of the dumpster and see which can be recycled.
In doing so, I’ve tried to figure out the new question. Maybe it’s: will x make me happy? I have no idea. Trying to engender a specific emotion seems altogether too complicated.
I believe it is time to wrap up this blog, because it has gone on at tedious length:
In restructuring my life, I’ve had to remember that finding triathlon took 20 years, 30 countries, failures in field hockey, years of jazz piano, a black belt in martial arts, whiffing a bunch of tennis and golf balls, Eagle Scout, a smattering of chess, a summa cum laude double major, epic MUN/MUSS failures and many other endeavors to know that I wanted to spend my 20’s purely pursuing the Olympics. The key to finding the next path will be to resume that mindful wandering. I’ve had to accept that I’ll begin the next challenge as a complete amateur.
Visa is an unbelievable opportunity. After listening to maybe a thousand payments podcasts, I’ve become more fascinated and intimidated by the nuances of payments industry and the role Visa plays. I can’t wait to start.
Since I hate endings, I’ll do a few blogs talking about the transition from athlete to person. This will make me feel like I’m doing something for fellow retirees, and I hope I can take some of my inevitable failures to prevent the same in others seeking their next big thing: