So, when my thirteen-year-old daughter started citing, “YOLO,” as a reason for doing something (generally something that had landed her in trouble), the phrase and it’s application with teens/young adults today drove me nuts. YOLO is not an excuse for not doing homework, ignoring requests from her mother to fold the laundry or clean the bathroom, and the list goes on. In the last few weeks though, I’ve started to realize that she may have gotten some of the YOLO mentality from me. I wasn’t the best student, and Amy can definitely vouch for the fact that I don’t always do the laundry she hints that I should do, but that’s not what I mean.
In the late 90’s and early 00’s, I was actively pursuing a career as a professional triathlete. From the moment I first saw a Kona broadcast, I was hooked. That’s where I wanted to be, and as I got into the sport and loved it, I wanted to make money doing it. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t always fun. In 2001, when Monkey came along, I was working part-time waiting tables and training full-time. Against their better judgement, Amy and her parents supported my endeavors, and instead of sending the baby to daycare (which frankly would have cost way more than the peanuts I was making), I quit my job and stayed home with her. Money was tight, and if it hadn’t been for my in-laws, we would have never made it. But, I pursued tri’s and made a run at going Pro. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, but I sure learned a lot along the way… about racing and about myself. After a few years of trying to burst onto the pro scene, I realized that it was time to hang up the gear and get a real job. I wasn’t thrilled about walking away from racing, but I had tried, my family had supported me, and it was time to move on.
The next few years, I was in school… to become a Paramedic, to become a Firefighter. Finally, I had my ideal career. I could have the action that I liked, and the schedule allowed me to get back into training and racing. I’m lucky; I really am. I like my job. I’ll admit that I don’t like 3am calls, especially when they end up being nothing, but it really is a career I enjoy. That said; I’ve caught a lot of flack over the years about not trying to climb the career ladder more aggressively. I’ve taken promotional tests a couple of times, and the last time, I actually studied consistently. Going into the test, I told Amy and my co-workers that I’d given it about an 80% effort… and I scored about 80%. One person said (and many others probably thought), “Well, you should have given it 100% effort.” Maybe so, but…
I’ve taken the path I have, choosing to balance a career that allows me to support my family with time to experience things I’m passionate about. Racing pro again has been fun. I’ve been able to race alongside the best of the best. Some days have gone well, and others not so much. But honestly, I wouldn’t trade any of it…even the bad days…for not being able to do it.
Another person asked me why I don’t get another job for my days off. Well, I guess you could say training/racing is the other job, since that’s what I spend my time doing. I’m also a Dad, so while I get my workouts in, it’s before the kids get up or after they’re off to school, and before I pick them up. I go to as many of their activities and sporting events as I can. Family time is also important. I can make that work with training; I couldn’t if I were gone working another job. That’s not to criticize those who do. It’s simply a choice I’ve made. I could have a bigger house or nicer cars, but those aren’t the things that matter most to me.
In the last few weeks, so many people I know have had their lives changed dramatically. Amy Marsh, a top-level Pro Ironman triathlete, was diagnosed with AML (leukemia) two days before Christmas, started chemo on Christmas Eve, and finished that round on New Year’s Eve. She’s one of the nicest people you’d ever meet. She was happy and healthy, gearing up for more great racing in 2015, and in an instant, her world changed. Phil Zetnik, owner of The Runner in Arlington, died suddenly Saturday at the age of 49. He was happy and healthy, and again, a really great guy. Apparently, it was just his time.
Sometimes, life isn’t fair, and you just never know what tomorrow will hold. So, when my day comes, while I’m sure I’ll have some regrets (who wouldn’t?), I’ll know that I lived life. I have an amazing family, a great job, and rewarding hobbies. I’ve been able to pursue my passions. I didn’t start it because of some catchy hashtag, but it sums it up. #youonlyliveonce