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Sixteen Years In The Making

Today was one of those days and I’m sure you’ve had this kind of day. But rather than bore you with the details of how tired I was and how I was looking for a fight with the boss, I’m going to get right into the day’s highlight.

Podcast of Inspiration

On the way home from work, I listened to a recent interview from Bob Babbitt’s giant selection of awesome podcasts. In this particular episode, he interviews a triathlete named Kelsey Withrow. For details I encourage you grab a cup of coffee or a cold beer (depending on time of day) and listen to it yourself. In this post, I want to share with you a wee bit of the content and what I took away from that conversation.

Kelsey set her sights on the olympics, but didn’t quite make it even though she swam and ran well in her youth. For 16 years she raced as a professional athlete and those 16 years were neither easy nor kind. There were bad coaches, bad accidents, heart surgery, heat stroke, a lot of pain, a lot of injury, a losing fight with a motor vehicle, friends and family telling her to quit and a long string of losing races. Those losing races weren’t like 5th place losing. They were like last place losing.

Most people I know would have given up long before year 16, but not Miss Kelsey. She persevered. Today she is a 70.3 champion and qualified, as a professional, for the 2019 IRONMAN World Championship. All indications would suggest she’s going to maintain or improve on that record.


After such a crappy day, hearing that story turned me around pi radians (180 degrees). Here was one athlete who struggled for 16 years to attain the highest levels of her sport while being knocked down by very serious challenges. Yet she stayed true to her vision.

I have one bad day at work and I’m ready to quit. You really have to love something to stay with it for so long through so much suffering. I”m sure Kelsey had her dark days too: she said as much.

Her story impacted me so much because it reminded me that even the best athletes have to work very hard to attain athletic greatness. Championship medals are not handed out to just anyone.

No Complaining

Her story was a reminder that all my little challenges and setbacks are nothing. I have nothing to complain about. When my friends and I raced at the Chicago Triathlon, our bikes were racked near the challenged athlete’s rack. In between races, Steve, who had been nursing a cold, looked at the special equipment near us, then quietly said, “I have no excuse.”

I love stories of overcoming hardships like that of Roderick Sewell who was the first double above the knee amputee to finish Kona. However, I identified with Kelsey’s story more than those of challenged athletes, because she is an ordinary person like you and me. If she can suffer through 16 years to become a champion then I can set my goals high and dream big too. Don’t get me wrong. I’m realistic, but I know with the right focus and training, I’ll attain my equivalent of athletic greatness and right now that’s a ticket to Kona.

Thank you, Kelsey. Thank you, Bob.

Until next time…

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