126.75 Miles Later…

It was a weekend of “lots.” Lots of adventures covering lots of miles, lots of emotions, and lots of lessons. We crushed goals, we made rookie mistakes, and we wrapped it all up feeling proud, motivated…and ready for a recovery week!

It was our third and final week of Willingness to Suffer Training (part of our broader Ironman training plan), and it was by far the toughest physical challenge I’ve ever faced. And yet, after 126.75 miles of swimming, biking, running, laughing, falling down and getting back up, we’re hungry for more!

Here’s how it went down…

Saturday: 1.75-mile swim

Location: Christiansburg Aquatic Center


  • Swimming at an amazing facility with free admission for your first visit!

Lesson Learned

  • Don’t eat raw almonds right before exercising. Just don’t.

Sunday: Mountains of Misery Century Ride

Joe Shrader Photography LLC

The Mountains of Misery Century is a 104-mile cycling event in Newport, Virginia featuring 10,000 feet of climbing and a four-mile 12%–16% graded climb to the finish.


  • Not falling over at the starting line (which was a very real possibility)
  • Mother Nature’s cooperation (we only got rained on for 10 minutes, despite the forecasted 100% chance of thunderstorms)
  • Learning that a mechanic was only 4 miles away when one of Tyler’s spokes broke (then eating PB&J sandwiches at the aid station while he fixed Tyler’s bike)
  • The awesome support staff and organization of the race – it was a fantastic event!

Lessons Learned

  • Always wear sunscreen, regardless of the forecast. Rookie mistake #1
  • Do an equipment scan before you start biking. After 20 miles of pumping my legs like a maniac and moving at a glacial pace, I realized that my brake was rubbing against my tire. A quick adjustment fixed the problem, but I had already lost time and burned through valuable energy. Rookie mistake #2
  • On big adventures you’ll almost always run into problems, big or small. Tyler had one bike malfunction after another for the entire day. If you’re patient, positive, and willing to ask for help, you can get through just about anything
  • Never underestimate an event that has the word “Misery” in the name
Joe Shrader Photography LLC

Monday: 21-mile run

Location: Country roads in Charlottesville, Virginia


  • Leaving a dollar in a stranger’s mailbox (inspired by Dean Karnazes’ habit of putting dollar bills under cars’ windshield wipers as a gesture of “paying it forward”)
  • Stopping to eat honeysuckle nectar when we reached our emotional and physical breaking point…twice
  • Finishing the full 21 miles despite wanting to quit within the first 30 minutes

Lessons Learned

  • Bring more food and water than you need in case you have a hotter, colder, or slower run/bike/hike/etc. than you expected
  • If you’re deep in the “pain cave” and there’s no end in sight, stop and smell the roses. I’m sure we looked weird, but picking honeysuckle for a few minutes did wonders for us
  • You can do it. It’s okay if the desire to quit goes through your head early on, or even repeatedly. Just focus on making forward progress – one foot in front of the other, no matter how slowly – and you’ll eventually make it to your destination

Final Thoughts

My biggest takeaway from the weekend was this: Helping others succeed is just as rewarding as achieving your own success. I needed Tyler’s support to get through Mountains of Misery, and I returned the favor during our run on Monday. There have been countless instances where encouragement from Tyler and others made the difference between success and failure for me, and it’s my job to pay it forward.

We recently started cheering on strangers when we see them running or biking by (no matter where we are or what we’re doing). There’s always a chance that they’ll think we’re strange or misunderstand our intentions, but I’m willing to take that risk if there’s a chance we’ll lift their spirits. Give it a try!

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