Unlike a lot of my closest triathlon friends and teammates I do not come from a strong athletic background. In high school I played soccer and lacrosse and was ski team captain/taught snowboarding lessons through the winter. My highest athletic honors came from lacrosse, a sport I rarely spent time off the bench for, simply because of how good the team was (3 time state semifinalists). Soccer was my first love and despite always struggling I truly enjoyed playing, making pick up games 3-5 times a week for many years. When I was awarded ‘most improved athlete’ for my high school graduating class I remember going to my soccer coach to thank him and hearing “you know Welby, when I first saw you play you were truly terrible,…” And that was it.
In college it was my dream to play soccer for the University of Buffalo, and although I played plenty of soccer at UB let me set the record straight, I never played for the team. My athletic career consisted of 4 spring seasons (cut every time), 2 pre seasons, 3 years of club ball, Intermural indoor/outdoor, Epic, Sahlens and pick up. In addition I played Intermural volleyball, dodge ball, softball and was a bus captain for Schussmeisters ski club, all while pursuing my degree in Mechanical Engineering. It was not until my Senior year and final time getting cut from soccer that I made the leap into running, with no prior experience, and completed two full seasons of division 1 Cross Country for UB, scoring every meet my final year.
Although I loved the thrill of competition I was not always the smartest when it came to committing to one discipline. When I look back my favorite days consisted of 7am practices with the varsity soccer team at the Bills practice arena (often running home), a full day of 400 level engineering classes, which I habitually slept through, 3pm track/cross country workouts, additional lifting sessions at the gym and somehow fitting in homework before going out most nights for some beer and wings with teamates and friends. In hindsight the things I did, the way I acted, what I ate and drank (more drank than ate) were in constant conflict of one another but it was my passion to fit everything together that fueled me and as long as I could wake up for soccer, hit my splits, lift enough in the gym, maintain deans list and spend time with my friends life was PERFECT! I still remember one night my senior year, walking back to South Lake from a Spring soccer game under the lights at UB stadium, friends all in attendance cheering from the stands, having crushed my track workout and scored a 104 on my senior CAD project that afternoon, and in anticipation of another great night out thinking it doesn’t get any better than this! I imagine if I had been dedicated enough to commit to one aspect I might have excelled more, and there were times I felt like a failure in each aspect; athletic, scholastic and social, but looking back I would not have traded any part for anything.
After college I jumped right back on the same train. I joined up with various clubs; Checkers AC, BDSL, Fisher Price Volleyball and soccer leagues, stayed with Schussmeisters, went to the gym 6 days a week, began swimming at UB masters, got into triathlon and joined the BTC, all while maintaining and making new friendships. It was nice not only to have the same avenues I had in college but finally the time and money, thanks to Fisher-Price, to take full advantage and not feel like I was getting pulled in multiple directions. I was dating someone who shared the same passion for competition and participated in many of the same clubs/activities that I did. She especially made waking up at 5:30am for swim workouts and coming home at 11pm from the gym more manageable. All the while I loved the thrill of partying till 3am and making it into swim practice hours later simply because I could. It was that same thrill for balancing an unmanageable lifestyle in a seeming manageable way that I had in college, and for a while it was fulfilling enough.
Over a period of 5 years I ran over 50 road races, completed 15 triathlons, participated in over a dozen community service events (Ride for Roswell, Carly’s Crossing, Tour d’ Cure, etc) and collected what I thought to be quite the impressive trophy case. I had supplemented that with multiple other activities, was playing soccer many times a week and not missing one night out, but slowly I noticed that things were changing. The lifestyle was consistent but I was getting more and more frustrated. I was unhappy with my 5k times, barely breaking 18 because I was too sore from lifting. In the gym I felt I was too weak because of all the running I was doing. My soccer skills were not getting any better and my agility was getting worse form all the miles I was putting on. I could still go out just as hard but was seeing the effects more clearly on my workouts. On top of that I saw a divide between my friends where some were choosing athletics and some late nights of drinking, but I was the only one who struggled to do both. The feeling of gratification was weakening and the justification of ‘because I can’ was not as rewarding as it used to be.
Over the last couple of years I have started to make sacrifices to gain a bigger sense of achievement through significant individual accomplishments. I joined up with the Tri Spot to align with others toward the soul goal of triathlon. In one year I hit 16:03 in a 5k, qualified for Boston, Completed my first Ironman at Lake Placid and returned to run a 4:38 road mile less than two weeks after. The following year, having joined with QT2, I participated in only a handful of races, all in different states, and finally managed to qualify for the 70.3 World Championships in Vegas Sept 2013. I realize more clearly now than ever before, that this is my chance to finally achieve something substantial in athletics. I am 28, on the tail end of 25-29, and my peak is getting closer and closer. One day I will wake up and my fastest race will be behind me. This year, through experienced coaching, meticulous diet, intelligent recovery, proper equipment and a well thought out plan I hope to leave my mark.
This is my year!