I have been ruminating on exactly how to write this blog post for a month now. Actually, if I’m honest I’ve been trying to figure this out for a couple of years, I only recently truly accepted this post is something that needs to be done for me to be able to move forward.
The problem has been, I am the living embodiment of a contradiction. I am desperate to share everything I’ve been facing over the past few years and why I disappeared from friends, triathlon, and life in general in many ways. However, I’m not really the “sharing” type. Sure I like to talk about myself, most of us do. But for the majority it is usually just superficial Facebook/Instagram type stuff. “Look at how great everything is… and while you’re at it here’s a pic of my dinner and my dog”.
But what if you have something “real” to say? Something people probably won’t expect, something some won’t want to hear and some may dismiss as pandering.
Then there’s the fact I can be a perfectionist. “If I’m gonna do this, I need to do it well. It has to be Pulitzer level stuff, pre-write, re-write, edit, revise, polish, repeat. Oh, and while I’m at it the platform needs to be flawless, I better rebuild my website, take some good pics…”.
Ultimately I’ve come to understand this can’t be pretty. The platform doesn’t matter. All that really matters is what is on my mind, what I’ve been wrestling with has paralyzed me for years. Its driven me away from friends and family…and career.
On Christmas Eve of 2017 as many were sitting down to dinner with family or perhaps heading to a midnight mass, I grabbed my backpack and stepped out into the unseasonably warm Colorado winter’s night.
I hiked up a mountain outside Golden for about an hour, off trail and cross country as I didn’t want to run into anyone else. I found a secluded spot, sat down on a rock and unpacked a bottle of E.H. Taylor, Jr. Small Batch … and a Hi-Point C9 9mm handgun. I took a healthy swig out of the bottle and stared out at the lights of Denver.
I asked myself out loud how my world had “turned to shit” and took another long pull on the bottle and contemplated the gun.
In 2010 I was in the best shape of my life. I had finally “learned to swim” and was able to hang with the first pack in big races. I was riding well, and my run was going very well, fastest splits, as it should be. Things were finally coming together.
I had just spent the majority of the season training in Denmark and Fuertaventura with Rasmus Henning and the Danish National Team. It was the best summer of my life.
I had began the year chasing ITU points and Olympic Trials Qualification. It was a long shot, but I was a quixotic optimist. However, after several World Cups and an eye opening training block in Denmark my ambitions shifted to that of the more lucrative Ironman arena.
I finished 2010 with a couple of 70.3 podiums and headed into 2011 certain I would finally live up to the potential so many coaches and sports scientists had always said I was capable of. I had finally matured as an athlete. I knew what I needed to do and how to commit and focus on a single goal rather than an “I can do it all” mentality.
Unfortunately 2011 didn’t begin as 2010 had ended. I was slow and depleted in my early season races. Blood tests showed it wasn’t anemia or anything else obvious. As the season proceeded I was OK at best. A few top 10’s but nothing great. Then I started loosing the ability to commit to racing eventually culminating with my not even going to the start of a 70.3 in South Carolina and instead driving down the highway for hours wondering what the hell was wrong with me.
In January of 2012 while driving to cross country ski I was T-boned by a car trying to shoot a gap in traffic. My car was totaled and my neck was broken. Not seriously broken but three vertebrae were cracked and I had neural issues which effect me from my neck to my left calf to this day.
2012 was shot. I tried to train and race but it was futile.
On Halloween of 2012 I went to the emergency room after fighting what doctors seen days previous had dismissively said was only a case of strep throat. The morning of October 31 I woke up having significant difficulty breathing. I couldn’t swallow, speak or rotate my head.
At the emergency room I saw the shocked and anxious look of a doctor trying not to reveal their true concern. I was immediately rushed to an operating room where I would have an emergency tonsillectomy done with only local anesthetic as the peritonsular abscess which was causing my issues was dangerously close to sepsis.
The abscess and consequent recovery treatment revealed that I was also fighting the Epstien-Barr Virus. Once I was diagnosed with EBV I was faced with a cancer scare and a barrage of tests to ensure I did not have a lymphoma.
In the end it was just the EBV, but the only way to treat this, also known as glandular fever or chronic fatigue syndrome, is to take time off. Quit training, definitely quit racing, and sit on the couch for… well, for as long as it takes.
So, that was 2012 done…and 2013…and 2014.
But it wasn’t just training and racing I would lose. It was my social network, it was my psycho-emotional outlet, it was everything I find “fun”. Gone, and with no schedule, no explanation of how long this would take, if i would every ride, run, swim, ski, or do anything significant outdoors again.
Gone. All of it, just fucking gone.
Life Without Life
In roughly 18 months I had gone from the pinnacle of my life and career to working part time at a job I really didn’t care about and doing nothing… by doctor’s orders. Couple that with the fact that any friends I had who were not focused on competition were at the stage of life where they were having kids, settling down, and, well, not available.
Everything I had known and loved for 20 years was gone and I couldn’t do shit about it.
I drank beer, watched F1 and Game of Thrones and everything else there is to watch. I drank whiskey and tried to ask myself “if you can never race again what would you want to do”? I fell into a deep depression.
Boulder is a very difficult place to be when almost everyone only knows you as an athlete, and you realize that the vast majority of friendships you thought you had were in fact only training partners.
I began to try to think bigger. “Where of anywhere in the world would I want to be living”? I settled on Vancouver, Canada. I have years of great memories from that town. I just love the place.
So, I tried to find a job, tried to find some way to get up there. I managed to find a coaching position with a company wanting to expand in Vancouver. It seemed to be a perfect situation. So, I sold almost everything I owned, listed my condo, packed up my cat and whatever was left and headed North.
Unfortunately, unannounced to me, or my immigration lawyer, Canada had rolled out a change to immigration 6 months early and I was turned around at the boarder.
No Vancouver, no job, no condo in Boulder, no training, no racing… no LIFE.
I ended up at my parents house in New Mexico futilely hoping to find a loophole to get into Canada. I couldn’t stay there and in an act of desperation bordering on the insane moved in with a girl I had met via online dating and had known for only weeks.
I had not intended to stay with her, but she was failing at a massive home renovation on the scale of a complete rebuild. This was something I could put all my time and effort into and distract myself from the fact I had ballooned to 200 lbs. was constantly depressed or angry and had no motivation to do anything other than peruse the whiskey aisle.
It is truly amazing how years can vanish when you are disconnected. Yes, I had built most of a house by myself in 2 years but somehow I found myself in Copenhagen prior to Christmas 2016 being screamed at about how I had done nothing for two years and owed her money, despite the fact I had put $20,000 and over 1000 hours into building what had been billed as “our” house.
“Why can’t you just get a fucking job AND work on the house”?
Ask and ye shall receive. Literally the next day I was contacted by a recruiter to be communications director at a cycling focused wearable tech startup. The pay was good, salvation was at hand, and, well, the house would have to wait. Hell, maybe I could actually try riding my bike again.
Although I was attacked on a daily basis about why the house build was not progressing, the communications job went well at the beginning. Then we fell into startup failures 101. Our CEO was over confident and under delivering which lead the board of directors to move up the product launch date. In an act of idiocy it was decided a cycling product would launch the same day the Tour de France started. This is the polar opposite of what should be done. Yes, cycling is getting a lot of press. No, they don’t care about anything other than what is happening in the race or what gear riders are using. So, I was asked to lie. To lie about what the product did, what the product could do for the user, and say one of the riders in the Tour peleton was actually using the product (he was not).
I was not willing to do communicate any of these lies, so, we parted ways… with this brand owing me two months pay.
Which takes us back to where we began.
Actions have consequences. Actions of which you have no control often have a greater impact.
In six years, six years that feel like six months, I had gone from the best shape of my life, a career on the upswing with a few good years left, and a happy fulfilling life with a strong community to a lonely, depressed, out of shape, unemployed, single (although that was for the best), shell of every way I know of how to define myself.
As I held the bourbon bottle in one hand and the 9mm in the other all I could think is “what’s the fucking point”.
I was getting cold, and I was sick of sitting there. “Just get it over with”.
This is where I’m supposed to say I saw an angel or some benevolent force of Christmas stopped me from making a huge mistake. But it wasn’t. What did stop me was that thought that kept going through my head. “what’s the fucking point?”
Yes, what’s the point of living, everything has gone to shit, the world is against you, you’ve failed in every way.
“What’s the point of killing yourself”? Why was I doing this, why was I up here, what was I thinking. I’m still young-ish, I’m smart, I’m capable, there are tons of people who have done awesome things with less talent than I. AND, if I kill myself who’s gonna feed my cat. I had forgotten to leave a note or any kind of heads up that the dude who just shot himself in the woods has a cat.
I realize that is odd, perhaps even funny. But that is honestly what went through my head.
I wanted to throw the gun away and walk home, but I figured if I was gonna go on living I could probably use the $180 I could get returning the gun. So, I walked home, fed the cat, and called the Suicide Prevention Hotline.
I’ve had a good bit of counseling for the past few months. Personally I don’t know if one is ever “cured” of depression. For me it is more analytical and introspective. I’m still not “happy”, I’m still out of shape, but I’m trying to get fit. Maybe that means racing, maybe it doesn’t, at least I’m healthy and recovered now. First priority is to get back down to 170 lbs.
I’m single, and that’s a good thing, although not always desired. I really should make use of the awesome bachelor pad I have, but… whatever.
The upside of the shit show of my previous relationship was that it taught me I am smart, talented, and capable at things other than running, riding, or triathlon. I have a ton of knowledge about marketing, communications, brand development and strategy (and home construction) from spending 20 years in one of the more fluid sectors of international business, outdoor recreation.
Recently, I’ve decided I am not giving up on moving to Vancouver. I really do love it up there. There is truly no place on Earth I would rather be.
I’ve began applying to jobs.
I would be lying if I said I don’t face regret and disappointment every day. I try my best not to get mired in shoulda, coulda, woulda. But, sometimes, I really honestly wish to God I had a time machine of some sort.
“If I only knew then what I know now.”