Upper Limits

Well this corner of the internet certainly has some cobwebs on it and they’re not decorations for Halloween! According to WordPress my last post was 5 months ago when I was trying to be a “coach”. Anyways, I’m glad to be back and writing again. Hope you’re all still on board.

For the past couple of weeks I have been taking part in Swim Bike Mom’s (or Meredith Atwood as she’s normally referred to) Swim Bike Fuel Program. She’s done two other rounds since launching last year and each time I said, “Maybe I should try this but what I am really going to get out of it? Eat more veggies and cut out sugar? Duh.” But then I started to read the comments of those who had gone through it and of Meredith herself who admittedly has always been a work in progress (just like myself) and has really changed things around for the better. I finally committed both financially and mentally to doing this and am very happy I did.

Since Ironman Mont-Tremblant in August of 2015, I’ve struggled…with a lot of things. But most importantly, at the root of these struggles, has been my lack of mental fortitude and strength. I became soft, lazy and unaccountable – to myself. I told myself that it was ok to eat donuts for breakfast for whatever reason, I said I didn’t need to go run because I was tired, I explained away the things I knew I should and deep down wanted to do which has led me to gain weight, lose muscle and lower the expectation of myself as an athlete and professional.


As I’ve worked through this journey over the past couple of months, I’ve realized a couple of things as it relates to mental tenacity:

  1. I’ve been treating myself with kid gloves as it relates to sports, almost as if I was going to break if I pushed myself or that I would injure myself. If I injured myself, I wouldn’t be able to do anything so I did the bare minimum.
  2. My mental image of myself as an athlete since IMMT changed significantly (and even from Ironman Lake Placid). I’ve never been the athlete to “just finish or just get through it.” No, I’ve scouted the competition, set goals, had coaches push me, etc. But when I signed up for the two Ironmans, my approach changed for some reason, I didn’t attack the goal of the Ironman because it was “just to finish” (which completing an Ironman despite a specific time is a tremendous achievement, I have yet to do it). By setting the goal of just finishing, I admittedly did the bare minimum and therefore failed.
  3. By lowering my standard recently, I ultimately was making certain I didn’t fail. Because lets face it, failure sucks and no one wants to fail but ultimately we need to fail in order to appreciate the process and achievement it takes to succeed.
    1. Side note: this is a lesson first taught to me by my mentor and now friend Trip Durham. He specifically wanted me to fail at something the year I was the team leader in college for our game ops group. I didn’t fully understand it then and I didn’t really experience failure the way he was expecting it until I tried Ironman. Trip writes on his own blog and I highly encourage you to follow him.

So back to Swim Bike Fuel. One of our lessons has been on self-sabotage. This program is not just nutrition focused but rather focuses on why we make the choices we do and how we mentally go about things. In the self-sabotage lesson, our leaders referenced the book The Big Leap and Gay Hendrick’s term “Upper Limits”. As I read the lesson I found myself agreeing with a lot of it but honestly its taken me about a week and a half to truly put all of the pieces together and understand the picture fully.


I’ll try my best at explaining Upper Limit as I understand it: when things are going well and good things are happening to you, you also may recognize that the other shoe must drop and something must go wrong because really its too good to be true. So if you don’t achieve so much, not having those achievements won’t hurt so bad. Essentially, we lower our bar to reach, making it easier on ourselves. I also take it to mean that we lessen our resiliency and don’t exercise that muscle as often. We don’t fight to keep the good things going or we allow the “bad” things to counteract or outweigh the good things.

Here’s an excerpt from Gay Hendrick in DailyOM “Each of us has an inner thermostat setting that determines how much love, success, and creativity we allow ourselves to enjoy. When we exceed our inner thermostat setting, we will often do something to sabotage ourselves, causing us to drop back into the old, familiar zone where we feel secure.

Unfortunately, our thermostat setting usually gets programmed in early childhood, before we can think for ourselves. Once programmed, our Upper Limit thermostat setting holds us back from enjoying all the love, financial abundance, and creativity that’s rightfully ours. It keeps us in our Zone of Competence or at best our Zone of Excellence.”


Gay goes on to talk about relationships, money and the like and how we can use tools to change our outlook as to where we stand currently. He sums all of this up with, “Because few people understand how the Upper Limit Problem works, many of us believe we are flawed, not destined for greatness, or simply not good enough to deserve the dreams we want to achieve. Others miss out on big-time success and chalk it up to bad luck or bad timing. Millions of people are stuck on the verge of reaching their goals, can’t seem to scale the wall, and are struggling under a glass ceiling that is completely within their control, waiting to be removed. But here’s the good news: You’re not flawed or unlucky or anything of the sort. You’ve got the Upper Limit Problem, and it can be transcended in the wink of an eye—if you’re equipped with the right tools and a willing heart.”

So at the end of the day, I’m working on changing my internal dialogue about how I feel regarding different situations in my life. As it relates to running and triathlon, I’m learning that I am a runner and I am a triathlete, a competitive one, I’m just on the path to getting back to that and so I must be patient with myself but also push myself to keep forward progress going.


In 2 weeks I will be on the Verazzano Bridge in New York City ready to tackle my first marathon ever with 50,000 of my closest friends. When my credit card showed I had a charge from NYRR, I was filled with dread. Dread because I knew I would have to train and push myself and do things that were going to mentally and physically tough. I wanted to quit many times this season while training for this race and it took me a long time before I even got serious about training but ultimately, I made the decision that I need to do this no matter what and to get it done.


Last weekend I did my longest run ever of 20 miles. I planned out my Sunday as I was already registered for the local Marine Corps Half Marathon that was re-scheduled due to Hurricane Matthew so I just needed to tack on some more miles and knock them out. When the new race course was announced, it was the least exciting course possible but one that will ultimately benefit me on November 6. The course was four loops around the Jaguars stadium and their empty tailgating lots. There weren’t many supporters, nothing in the terms of scenery and the weather was ridiculously humid (as it has been all Summer) but as I went into the race, I knew that if I could knock out the 20 miles with this race as the majority of the miles, I could do the marathon in NYC.

That training run probably deserves its own post and maybe I’ll do one but I had a big mental win that day when I made the decision to leave the post-race area (after dry heaving into a trash can for a bit), head back to my car for more fuel and complete four more miles to make it an even 20.

I’m tired of setting my bar low and not really achieving anything in the process, only not liking where I’m at. So I’ve decided to “let go” of comparing myself to pre and post Ironman situations and just move forward with being the athlete that I am and to stoke that internal competitive fire because really I’ve missed it.


When I do find success, it may hit when that medal goes around my neck in NYC or in another form, I will remember that I put in the work and deserve to enjoy the moment and not to self-sabotage with something else. Its all about balance and knowing when to push and when to ease up.

I hope you identify your own Upper Limit and find some meaning for yourself in my long over due ramblings.


Are You Inclusive or Part of the 2%?

Before Snowpocalypse happened yesterday across much of the southeast (except in most of Florida where it was ridiculously warm and humid), Meredith of Swim Bike Mom wrote a very raw and personal post titled “An Unworthy Life” about where she is currently in her triathlon life and how sometimes she feels like she’s not a “real triathlete”.

Meredith trained for and completed Ironman Coeur d’Alene last year and has been doing triathlon for a number of years, starting with a spin class at a local gym lead by her former coach, Coach Monster. When she found triathlon and the beginning of a new sport (she did olympic weightlifting previously), she started her blog which has morphed into multiple outlets and partnerships with legit companies such as All3Sports.com but with these partnerships and public appearances, there have been critics along the way, some louder than others.

Coach Monster during spin class.  Source swimbikemom.com

Coach Monster during spin class.
Source swimbikemom.com

When Meredith writes about these experiences she does so in a very honest, exposing way. I would say 98% of the people who read her posts are fully supportive of her but its the 2% who feel, for whatever reason, that she is not a “real triathlete” and make their voices magnified with their negativity.


I say bullshit to those 2%. Just because she is not a size zero or a podium stalker doesn’t mean she didn’t cover the same, exact 140.6 miles that the guy who placed first in his age group did. Whenever I read about these 2% encounters, they typically come from guys who I believe are deep down threatened by her success or are questioning why they aren’t partnering with brands like she is.

“Well, the dude behind me, who I have known for a while, said, “Wait. Are you sponsored or something by All3?”

It wasn’t the question that made me cringe… It was the tone of his question.

And the tone felt mean.”

Meredith’s blog speaks directly to me quite frequently. While I may not have kids and a husband to juggle like she does, I too don’t always feel like a “real triathlete”. I’m not a size zero or two nor do I think I ever will be. I wear a size large tri top and shorts and I’m fine with that. Sure I would like to trim down some and I know that will happen when Ironman training starts in a month but I can get through a course pretty quickly and have even placed in my age-group.

As a business owner at the age of 28 I’ve had my share of doubters and critics. Now, I’ve never been one to deal with criticism in the best of ways, having the ability to just let it roll off my back easily but I’m learning because I have to, otherwise, the critics would win and I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing.

“You own an endurance sport nutrition store and have never done a marathon?”

Yes, I do and no, I still have not done a marathon but I am doing what I want to do with my life and have the experience and knowledge to back it up.

So I ask, when did triathlon and sports in general, go back to being exclusive rather than inclusive?

For years, we made strides as a country to desegregate on the field, provide women the opportunity to play high school, college and professional sports and to allow those from other countries the opportunity to find a better life in the US through sports. Our society has gone to one extreme with regards to kids sports where every one gets a medal or trophy so why are we going to the other extreme as adults? Can’t we find a happy medium for all to enjoy sports and grab a medal if they place and not worry about who is participating?

It feels as if we take a step back from this progress when someone voices their opinion as to why someone else would want to be involved in a sport because of their size or lack of speed. I ask those 2%, does someone else’s participation really take away from your experience? If you are so fast, then you don’t have to worry about the person behind you…right?


More and more women (and men) are finding triathlon and running and these women (and men) come in all shapes and sizes, will inevitably race at different speeds and will change the sport, for good. For a long time, its been dominated by 15% body fat, speedy guys but thats just because the sport started with those guys and I am so glad they did start the sport! However, we are seeing a wave of change in who is participating and we should welcome this change with open arms not snicker behind someone’s back and make a comment about their intentions. We are seeing this change because our nation is waking up to the fact that we are not so healthy and are shortening our lives by being inactive. This wave of change is much needed and necessary so we can provide good role models for our kids and to be around for our grandkids and family.

So with that, welcome to the sport of triathlon, I welcome you with open arms!