Have you ever had breakthrough ‘innovative’ ideas while out on a run and thought to yourself – if only I had a brain ‘idea’ monitor to capture it – I just might remember it when I get back. For me completing running events or triathlons built confidence in my capabilities and it gave me the inspiration to set more goals and try harder – even though the day in and day out grind can be a challenge. So you could only imagine my excitement with my next blog as Mike Lenhart is another dear friend that seems to have amazing energy and passion for life!
I asked Mike why he got involved in Endurance Sports. Mike stated ‘I was fortunate to graduate from West Point in 1990 and I incurred a 5-year military obligation as a result of the “free” education from the military academy. I was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the Army, serving in the Infantry branch. I was having such a great time in the military that I actually served a total of 7 years on Active Duty. My father is a retired Army colonel, so I found working in the Army to be a very comfortable, easy adjustment after graduating from college,’ Mike replied.
‘When I left the Army, many things changed in my life, most importantly the camaraderie I got from working around soldiers. I missed that and it wasn’t until I started becoming involved with endurance sports, namely “triathlons”, that I was able to find a similar connection that I had in the Army. Like many who start doing triathlons, I started with smaller distances, sprints and then olympic. Eventually, I moved up to Half IRONMAN events. Now, nearly 10 years since doing my first triathlon, I have nearly 100 races under my belt, including 4 IRONMAN events,’ Mike Replied.
‘Along my journey, I found I enjoyed volunteering at races, helping out several local race directors around Atlanta, and learning more about the sport by watching others. This volunteerism eventually led to becoming involved in the governance side of the sport. I served 6 years on the USA Triathlon southeastern council, including two terms as the regional chairman. I am currently the national chairman for the USA Paratriathlon Committee, a group who’s mission is to expand the participation in triathlon by individuals with physical disabilities. So, kind of a long way of answering your question. I suppose, for me, it was both health related (regaining the sense of camaraderie) and inspirational (by assisting with disabled individuals),’ Mike Stated
I went on to ask Mike what events he enjoyed the most, Mike said ‘The West Point Lake triathlon in Lagrange, GA has always been one of my favorites because it was my “first” triathlon and I became great friends with the race director, Jim Rainey. For several years after that initial race, I would go back annually and compete at West Point Lake as it was a great way to see how I was improving year-to-year,’ Mike replied.
‘Next, I love the Gulf Coast Triathlon (half iron distance) in Panama City Beach, FL. Besides the challenge of the longer distance course, this race is always held on a Saturday. So that meant I could take a trip to the beach, race on a Saturday, be done by lunchtime, and have the rest of the weekend to enjoy the sand and sun with friends,’ Mike stated.
‘Lastly, I raced the inaugural IRONMAN Chattanooga in 2014 and absolutely loved it. It certainly wasn’t my best performance at that distance but what made the race so special for me was the large number of “friends” who traveled from Atlanta to compete or cheer on participants. I raced as a member of the Atlanta Triathlon Club and it was inspiring to see nearly 100 teammates competing on the same course that day,’ Mike said.
I went on to ask Mike about the Non-Profit he started and its inspiration, Mike said ‘In a nutshell, I started The Getting2Tri Foundation as a way to encourage participation in triathlons by individuals with physical disabilities. The organization puts on sport camps a few times a year to teach swimming, cycling, and running to individuals with limb loss, spinal cord injuries, paralysis, and other injuries that might otherwise limit their ability to stay healthy and active. Beyond the obvious benefits of teaching individuals to participate in sports, it’s the hidden gem of “confidence through sports” that I’ve witnessed time and time again by many of our camp participants. We might have someone on day 1 of a camp barely make it one length of the pool swimming. But by day 3 that same individual is doing multiple laps without stopping or requiring assistance. That’s the confidence I’m referring to that is further extended to the individual’s personal, family and professional life,’ Mike commented.
I asked Mike why he choose Triathlons, Mike said ‘For years, the sport of triathlon has been one of the best amateur sports where you can toe-up to the start line with all kinds of abilities and individuals next to you. While on the course, you’ll see other age group athletes, novice “first timers”, paratriathletes, and elite racers. That sense of “invitation” was always appealing to me; competing in a sport where nearly anyone could likewise participate’.
I then asked Mike what advice he would give someone new to the sport, Mike stated ‘Train with another person or group. Long ago, I started training with a group of triathletes, many of us new to the sport. But there was great accountability within the group. And that sense of pushing one another not only led to better performance in races, but also to many lasting friendships. My advice is simple; don’t train alone, life is better when you’re part of a group!’
Such great advice Mike and I can’t agree with you more – as we continued our conversation I asked him if participating in endurance events has impacted his career, Mike said ‘Great question! I think participating in endurance sports requires some very long hours of training. If not managed properly, an athlete can let himself or herself fall behind in other important areas of life, such as family, work, etc. For me, I had to become even more organized than I already was. One tool was I would treat workouts as if they were regular meetings on my work calendar. I would schedule those on my calendar and, with some exception, I wouldn’t break those “meetings” just as I wouldn’t break normal “work” meetings. So I’d say becoming better organized was a great by-product of my participation in endurance events’.
I couldn’t agree more as its a balancing act and if you are passionate enough about something you find ways to make it happen even during challenging days which happen often.
Thanks Mike and good luck in Charlotte..