I stood there basking in the unusual 100 degree April day near San Diego in nothing but my running shoes, some speedo-type shorts and running shorts over there.
I was about to take on a beast of a mud run that involved a 500 foot climb to go with the endless obstacles over a 10k course with 800 or so other people. I was bound and determined to win and I could already feel the excitement before the race had even started.
Then, I saw them. Two Ironman tattoos on the calves of the gentlemen standing before me near the start. My moment of pre-determined joy quickly left my body and I knew I was in for a battle. A Battle of the Beasts.
Here We Go
We started the 5+ hour drive from Phoenix to San Diego early Saturday morning poised to dominate. My buddy was just there for the beach, but I was headed to San Diego with the sole purpose of domination.
We spent the day relaxing and wandering through downtown and eventually hit the hay that night with my mind moving a mile a minute knowing I was going to be pushing my body to some extremes in just a few hours.
“Here we go!,” was all I could think. I was pumped. I had been training for the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, which was a little more than a month later, and thought this was a perfect race to get away from the flat runs and mix it up. Needless to say, a mud run does just that.
Becoming an Elite Amateur Athlete
It didn’t happen in a week. It didn’t happen in a month. This was about 4 months of full on committment to the gym, the road (running), and the diet. I was locked in.
Around the prior Christmas, I made the committment to put my best foot towards qualifying for the Boston Marathon (more on that in the future). So, I set the goal of working out at least twice per day. I would get, at minimum, one run and one lift in 5 days per week with 1 other day being a long run and 1 day of rest.
You may think that with all of that working out, obviously, I became an elite amateur athlete. Though the workouts were key, the focus on the diet was what led to most of the success I had.
Becoming an elite amateur athlete is often seen as being a mad attempt to become a professional while typically falling short of such goal. Often, this is the furthest from the truth. Many of us who choose the lifestyle of elite amateur athlete want to reach the pinnacle of our physical and mental being with no such desire to go pro. To those that due, they are the few.
My training that led to a period of about a year of strictly being an elite amateur athlete took serious amounts of time and energy. Prior to choosing said lifestyle, I strongly suggest considering the time committment. When I started, I was single and had few committments. I had the flexibility to train as frequent as I so chose. Not everyone has this opportunity. You might want to discuss this with your family and committments prior to jumping in head first. This will effect those around you and the more they are on your team supporting and understanding you, the likelier you are to succeed.
An elite amateur athlete is a way of life that one chooses. It’s not forced nor taken lightly. Make this decision and committment carefully.
10 feet away, the two Ironman-tattooed men and another runner were keeping a good pace ahead of me. We were about 1 mile into the second and final course loop when we hit the mountain climb portion. The four of us were climbing ever so slowly skyward. They began to pull away and by the time I reached the top of the hill, they were 50 feet away.
Falling back has, is and will happen.
This pursuit will make you question every thing you are doing multiple times per week. I say this not to scare, but to prepare you for the mental aspect. When your goal seems within reach, it pulls 50 feet further from your grasp.
“Let’s do this,” I thought as I took my first step on top of the hill. I sped towards the leaders and quickly passed the sole non-Ironman runner in hot pursuit of the Ironmen.
With less than a half mile to go, I barreled down the hill, splashed through the mud pits and crossed the finish line. In the pursuit, I had lost track of the Ironmen, but knew I was close if not had passed them. I would later find out the two Ironman-tattooed men finished a respectable 20 seconds ahead of me while I finished third overall in a field of 800.
I knew though. I knew I had it in them to be right there with those who trained day and night for the ultra-competitive and intense Ironman events. I knew I could make a comeback. I had that mental edge that came with endless training, committment and dedication.
That was the moment. That was the moment I knew I had become an elite amateur athlete.
This moment hits often. When you reach or are in reach of becoming an elite amateur athlete, there are moments when you realize, “I can do this. No problem,” even when it is a difficult aspect of training or competing.
It may sound like an obvious response, but this is a major mental leaping point in excelling at your physical goals. When you know rather than question your abilities, you can achieve far more.
What does it take to become an elite amateur athlete then? It takes twice what you wish you had to put into it. It takes getting up at 5 to get a run in when you know you have no other time that day to get it in. It takes sacrificing a few of the aspects that give you short term pleasure in life for the long term goal of self-fulfillment.
How much does it take? It takes everything.
Becoming an elite amateur athlete is amazing. You feel that you can accomplish everything and if you give it everything, everything else in this world becomes nothing in comparison.