I can’t (?)


“I can’t. ”

It’s a phrase that’s used often. Sometimes it’s as trivial as, “I can’t go, I have plans.” Recently it’s gained favor in the millennial destruction of the English language. But often, the phrase, “I can’t,” is used when we express our limits.

I was reflecting on this phrase the other day while training and I asked myself, “why not?” Now, before you stop reading, because that really sounds like a cheesy graphic T-shirt, hear me out.

How many times, when you say, “I can’t” do something, can you literally not do said thing? If you really think about it, the reasons why not can be peeled away like the layers of an onion until you get to the center. I’ll be honest, I don’t know what’s at the center of an onion, but of this proverbial onion, the answer is almost always, you can.

Okay, let’s move beyond the hyperbole and demonstrate. I love the basketball but it was never a sport I pursued seriously. Once in high school I dunked a tennis ball and it was one of the best days of my then-fifteen years on earth. But today, as a 5’11”, 31 year old endurance athlete, “I can’t dunk.”

If you looked at Mark Cuban, mega-accomplished billionaire and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, would you guess that he can dunk? Fun story: he can. And he wasn’t a basketball stud who did this in his prime. He dunked for the first time at the age of 37! 

See, Mark Cuban wanted to dunk a basketball. So for a year he trained to do just that. It’s a testament to goals, determination and focus. Mark does have four inches on me, so maybe it would take me two years, but if I went all in on box jumps and squats, you couldn’t tell me that dunking is out of the question.

So why not a more relevant scenario, like “I can’t swim under 28 minutes in a half Ironman?” After all this is a triathlon blog and this is something I’ve said, and sometimes even believed.

Because most would look at that and say one of two things:

  1. “I don’t know anything about that, but you train and race all the time, so I’m sure you could.”
  2. “I know what it takes and you train and race all the time, so I know you can.”

Changing “can’t” to “can” is not about ability. It’s about will. Most people would look at my triathlon racing and say, you have the ability to swim under 28 minutes. But I truly believe that the range of things we can actually do is expansive if the will is there.

And this isn’t limited to grandiose physical accomplishments. In fact, it becomes the most immediately applicable to habits. I often hear, “I just can’t work out early in the morning, before work.” I’m not shaming anyone who’s said that – I have! But if we all look at our most recent “I can’t,” from anywhere in life, once you start to peel those onion layers, it gets really hard not to see “I can.”

Maybe those onion layers are a busy schedule, self doubt, not having the right people around you or hell, maybe it’s just a lack of commitment. More on my layers and how I’ve peeled them to find “can” next week!

Race Report: Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga

Chatt swim exit

All smiles as I exit the swim one minute back from the leaders, a first and the setup for a brand new style of racing for me: the hunter becomes the hunted.

It’s easy to look back at a race that was lost by 1min 5sec and find that time across the four disciplines of triathlon (swim, bike, run and, of course, transitions):

If I had broken away from the group a little earlier on the bike…

if I’d acted with a little more purpose in transition…

if I didn’t make that rookie mistake of trying a new supplement run…

…perhaps I could have lifted the tape at Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga.

But, after vomiting and peeing my pants (you’re welcome), each whilst continuing to run, one thing I knew as I exhaled at the finish is there was no lack of will to go for the win. And after crumbling at Oceanside and a mechanical at Santa Rosa, I’m so happy about getting a chance to race as well as I could and even have the opportunities to make, and learn from, those small mistakes in a third place performance.

At mile 2 of the run, I found myself in the lead of the amateur race, with nothing to do to play to my strength and try to hold, and hopefully extend, my lead. The hunter had become the hunted and the feeling was totally foreign. My racing career has been spent turning myself inside out to chase down stronger swimmers. The swim in Chattanooga was shortened from 1.2mi to 0.8mi due to storms the night before and I came out within a minute of the front group, in the thick of things immediately.

After settling in for a 56mi bike ride, at mile 10 I grew frustrated with some of the gamesmanship happening in the group I was riding with. I decided to put my head down for five minutes and ride all out, which worked and I was in the clear to make my way throughout the rest of the field by riding hard and trying to stay as aero as possible, something I’d worked on lately.

And as I cruised into transition, I got a position update from teammate and race Sherpa for the day, Jordan Bailey: third, behind teammate Reid Foster and another athlete. Reid is such a strong biker so when I saw him at his rack upon racking my bike I was stoked that I had ridden well.

I gulped a Red Bull and charged out the gate for the half marathon, admittedly a little stiff from riding hard. Shortly after mile 2, I found myself alone in the lead.


No spectators on the back part of the course, no other athletes around. I made the call to hold the lead instead of going gang busters. Little did I know, there would be no busting of gangs, even later when I needed to.

In probably my worst decision of the day, and certainly out of fear of an Oceanside crampfest repeat, at mile five after the first twitch of my left quad, I decided to take a Hot Shot, something I’d never drank before, but known for stopping cramping before it begins. Within thirty seconds, I felt an overwhelming heat come over me and my body slowed beyond my control as I began to wretch. My body totally rejected the supplement, made with natural ingredients like lemon juice and cayenne. This isn’t a knock on Hot Shot, and I usually can eat or drink anything and continue, but I definitely shouldn’t have tried something new on race day. At least the two guys in the parking lot who saw a guy running and vomiting have an awesome story now…

Bouncing back from that over the next mile was really a struggle, especially up a steep hill. My thoughts passed through fear, doubt and uncertainty, but ultimately I was able to pull myself together, regain focus and begin running a somewhat respectable pace again.

There are several U-turns on the course that allow you to see how far behind competitors are. The first lap ended and while I was still in a decent lead, realizing my run goal time was out the window, my objective was to run well enough to win. That became a challenge at the U-turn before mile nine when I saw teammate Kevin Denny inexplicably had closed the gap by about a minute.

In an instant, the race changed. I began to run harder but it wasn’t long until he caught and passed me. I tried to hop on, focusing my gaze between his shoulder blades and hold the pace but it just wasn’t there on Sunday. He clocked a 1:16 and I did everything I could to hold onto a 1:19 for the win, ultimately finishing with a less 1:20, less than a minute behind Kevin overall. I gave KD a big hug at the finish line, congratulating him on a well executed race and the victory, before finding out someone who’d started later beat him by 8 seconds, shifting Kevin to 2nd and me to third (there seems to be no easy way to race head to head in amateur triathlon other than a mass start).

What can I say? The decision to fly out to Chattanooga after pulling out of Santa Rosa was a success. While I’d loved to have won, I believe a winning performance was in there somewhere had I executed better and that’s really encouraging. What’s more, fifteen guys on Team Every Man Jack from across the country got to spend time training, racing, and eating (a lot) together. And finally, I can’t say enough about Chattanooga as a venue. The bike course is one of the best I’ve raced, Ironman Village is settled nicely along the river, and the run is super honest. I think it’s going to be a really phenomenal World’s venue in September.

Thanks to the inner circle who emphasized flying to all the way to Tennessee last minute to race was a good idea, to sponsors for the gear to get me to and through the race, teammates for pushing each other to the edge and friends and family for the kind words.

I’ll leave you with six “things I learned” and, as always, one #badracepic.

  • Maybe it was because we swam 1400 yards downstream, but I had my most competitive swim to date. I identified  swimmers I knew were a few seconds faster than me in the pool, got behind them in line and hung onto their draft like my race depended on it.
  • I spent too much time trying to ride legally in a group that was not ultimately the group I’d ride in with. While it only took until mile 10 to make the call to break away, there was too much sitting up and soft pedalling amongst lead changes. Had I put my head down for five minutes on the lightening fast Felt IA earlier, I’d have had a bigger cushion on the run.
  • I had a lot of stuff in my run transition that I intended to carry out on my person: Boco visor, Oakley sunglasses, Fitbit Surge watch, Red Bull, Hot Shot. I left the visor on the cloudy day, but it just wasn’t set up in a way that made it easy to move quickly. I’ll assess how I can make it happen more seamlessly next time.
  • My tight hammies at the beginning of the run could be par for the course for riding that hard, could also be a position change that needs tweaked. I’ll consult with Paul Buick of purplepatch Fitness, who did an incredible job with my bike fit.
  • I’ll make this one short: don’t take any supplement I haven’t tried before on race day again.
  • Funny enough, I thought I’d run a 1:16 myself on Sunday. Lack of top end speed on the run could have been a product of a harder bike, of my episode in the bullet above, or more likely just not being topped off enough in hydration and fueling. I have to say, it’s tough to ride hard and aero and get the fuel and hydration that you need. Especially when you don’t prefer what’s offered on course. I switched from Picky Bar + GU gels to Picky Bar + GU chomps in this race and I do think it makes it easier to consume. Still, I didn’t eat quite as much as I could/should have, for no other reason than it’s either not convenient, not top of mind or not appealing while pushing hard and trying to control your bike 26mph in aero. I’m looking forward to dialing this in.


Still got it. #badracepics


Travel Tuesday: San Francisco (Golden Gate Overlook)

A series of stories & tips about training & traveling. 

Four miles from my house in the heart of The City. It’s easy to draw inspiration in San Francisco.

Travel is great for so many reasons –  expanding our perspective, trying new things, learning about other ways of life, adventure or relaxation. But sometimes the best way to recharge is with a solid staycation. And that’s exactly what’s on tap for Travel Tuesday this week.

I’ve lived in San Francisco for over seven years now, as many years as square miles in the city. I’ve covered most of that by bike or foot and let me tell you, a lot happens in that 7x7mi space. World class parks, like Golden Gate, Presidio and Crissy Field, provide a wealth of gorgeous outdoors almost impossible to imagine in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city.

And that’s precisely why there’s no reason someone visiting San Francisco should go for a run in a stop light interrupted, overcrowded street outside their hotel. Heck, sometimes it’s easy for residents to fall into their routine and forget how fulfilling it is to run in these parks!

If you have time for one run in San Francisco, incorporate the Golden Gate Overlook on the Coastal Trail into your mileage. I recommend this because if you run shorter distances, it’s easier to park a rental car or get a Lyft to the Golden Gate Bridge parking lot. If you’re looking for a longer run, it’s a 5mi one way from Union Square via Crissy Field. My favorite is to start from gate at Presidio and Pacific and enjoy The Presidio on one of its signature mystic mornings. I’ve linked that route here:

Presidio run to Coastal Trail (8.7mi)

While it’s true that the views and San Francisco are tough to beat, anywhere I’ve lived or traveled to, I’ve found favorite tracks that put my mind at ease as I cruise through. What are some of your favorite “back pocket” runs in your hood? Leave a reply below!