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Lessons Learned From SCARY GOALS

I set three insane fitness goals in 2020…

  1. Qualify for and run the Boston Marathon.
  2. Finish a 100-mile race.
  3. Finish an Ironman.

Why these? They were scary… I didn’t know if I could do any, let alone all three. But that was the point… I wouldn’t give up until I finished the job.

I started with the 100-miler in Texas with my friend Kimo. I failed after 65 miles. Not the best start. Talk about a slice of humble pie.

I switched my strategy to focus on qualifying for Boston. I needed a sub-three-hour marathon, a 6:50 per mile average for 26.2 miles. I nearly fell apart but managed to qualify by seven seconds… I ran Boston the following spring with my mom there to watch.

Next was a second 100-miler attempt. I trained hard and focused on strength. I revised my strategy. And completion wasn’t the standard… I wanted a great time, which is under 24 hours.

My friend Benjamin ran it with me, and our execution was perfect. We finished at 22:09.

The last one… A full Ironman. 2.4-mile swim, 116-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run. The run was fine and a swim I could do, but I’d never ridden a bike more than a few miles.

I trained in each discipline for months. I didn’t know what a strong time for the race was until last month when I googled it. The average men’s time is 12:38. I thought I could do sub-12.

Last weekend, I completed my first triathlon in 11:47 with my friend Vid.

Lesson Learned

  1. Consistency trumps complexity. The longest training run I had before the Hennepin 100 was 15 miles. I’d never ridden a bike over 60 miles before the Ironman. But I had the confidence needed for both because I’ve trained daily for years. Regardless of the goal, my training plan is to work every day. Even if it’s only a few-mile run, it all adds up.

  2. Work the plan. Nutrition makes or breaks an endurance race. Through trial and error, I’ve learned the best fuel for my body. It’s EXTREMELY tempting to deviate during the races, especially when exhausted, but I’ve learned to stay the course. An Oreo or Coke can bring temporary pleasure but ruin a race.

  3. What’s the next aid station? The thought of running a marathon after 8-hours of swimming and biking in a triathlon or after already running three marathons in a 100-miler can crush you. The good news? Each race has aid stations—Ironman has them every mile, and 100-milers have them often every 5 miles. Instead of focusing on the overall distance, I’ve learned to only focus on the next aid station. Once I reach my objective, I refuel and set off for the next. Rinse and repeat.

  4. Pain is necessary. No race is comfortable for me. That’s the point. Pain is the table stakes—the mere right to compete. My pain tolerance is far beyond what it was only a few years ago, and now I can use it to my advantage.

  5. Belief. I didn’t know how I’d accomplish ANY of these feats. The most rigorous thing I’d ever done was a marathon. But I knew I could complete each if I signed up and put in the work. The mind is a weapon when directed in the right way.

  6. Smile. If you’ve ever spectated an endurance event, you’ll notice how miserable everyone looks—they look this way for good reason. But I realized I didn’t have to be that way… I began reminding myself to smile and tell jokes to others as I worked. I could bring a brief moment of joy to others needing it and increase my performance.

  7. Fast alone, far together. I doubt I would’ve completed any of the three feats I did without the help of others. I ran each event with different crazy friends who wanted to push their boundaries for various reasons. I am grateful to have worked alongside each of them.

  8. There’s always more. After mile 21 on my attempt to qualify for Boston, I crumbled so badly that I was walking. As I pouted, the 3-hour pacer ran up behind me and slapped me on the back. “You have to be up there to make it! Get on it!” I’d never run harder. My mind lied to me… It said I couldn’t, but I still had plenty more to give.

  9. SIMPLE. Getting caught up in the gear, tactics, and fancy supplements is SO EASY. I’ve learned the majority of it doesn’t matter. And worse, much of it gets in the way. It’s best to run with what works well and leave everything else behind.

  10. Constant forward motion. The aid stations are fun on 100-mile races. There's music, fires, and alcohol. When you're 80 miles and 15 hours in, the last thing you want to do is leave the warmth and fun for more dark loneliness. But that's the only way... Just keep moving forward.

Dirt Talk Podcast

In this episode, Aaron sat down with guest Mark O’Donnell, CEO of EOS Worldwide to discuss how to strengthen your business and connect with your people. They explored the significance of a clear marketing strategy and the importance of resilience in dealing with unforeseen challenges. Later, they discussed leadership that trusts, cares, and leverages individual strengths, allowing employees to reach their full potential. They also talked about career development, job satisfaction, and the powerful impact of the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) in driving growth and business transformation.


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