If I’ve learned anything as an endurance athlete, it is that timing is everything. As a team captain for the Corporate 5k, I had the opportunity to tour Second Harvest Food Bank earlier this year. I was impressed by its low administrative costs and almost brought to tears by its mission to inspire and engage the community to end hunger. I decided that evening that this was an organization I could advocate for through my athletic pursuits.
It took some coordination, but I gained permission to use a Cannondale Hooligan Urban bike in an Ironman event. With the support of Wieland and Don King’s Concrete, I entered two endurance races in Switzerland, the Swiss Alpine Marathon and the Swiss Ironman. And I secured an experienced coach, Sean Hendryx. In addition to physical and mental training to prepare for these two back-to-back races, I also contacted Defeet socks to create a special Woolie Boolie with my official logo on it. None of these was a simple task to complete, but the convergence made a perfect combination to raise awareness and funds for Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.
During my training, I started volunteering at Second Harvest every week to be reminded of why I was pursuing this goal. When you volunteer at the food bank, you enter the warehouse beneath a sign that reads, “Through these doors pass the most productive volunteers in Florida,” and I tried my best to live up to that during each shift. When I finish volunteering, I experience a feeling of accomplishment that I take with me to my full-time job and I tend to have a more productive day afterwards.
The Big Races
In July, I boarded a plane for Switzerland for the first race with two goals in mind: (1) do not get hurt and (2) finish in time to make the 7:02PM train back to Zurich. I achieved both while enjoying the 48-mile arduous trek through Swiss villages, forests, boulder fields and pastures with very steep inclines and declines. As soon as I finished, I rushed to the hotel, gathered my belongings and made it to the train with just 10 minutes to spare!
I arrived at my hotel in Zurich after 10PM, ate a quick meal and packed my gear for the Ironman the next morning. I awoke at 3AM to finish preparations, eat breakfast and head to the transition area. Since I was tired from the previous day’s run, I started the Ironman in the back of the field. However, I was able to pass a large number of swimmers and enjoy the cold water.
I took the first cycling lap very cautiously. My three-speed bike seemed to go slow, slower and slowest, but I was able to persevere up the hills and cautiously descend on my “small wheel” bike that bounced at higher speeds. The second lap posed a challenge with higher wind speeds and an approaching rain storm. I made the cutoff with 15 minutes to spare.
My legs were very tired on the run but the course was well supported with hydration, nutrition and spectators to distract me from the growing fatigue. It started to rain a quarter mile from the finish. The spectators began taking shelter, but it felt great to me and I soaked in the moment. After 39 ½ hours of racing and travelling between, I slept very well that night.
The Grand Finale
Back from the race, this September I will finish 25 weeks of consecutively volunteering at Second Harvest. September is also Hunger Action Month, a time when food banks across the country engage their communities to take action to end hunger. I’m doing my part by challenging any and all contenders to a Small Wheels Race on September 24th. Contestants must ride a 20” wheel bike, or smaller. The fundraising ride will consist of segments inside and outside of the warehouse, with some running segments thrown in for variety.
To learn more about my journey, you can read this Orlando Sentinel article or visit my GoFundMe page. I hope you’ll join me at Second Harvest on September 24th to race, volunteer or learn more about how you can be a Hunger Hero.
Ironman, Volunteer and Hunger Hero