I was born on July 25, 1978 by a midwife in a one room stone house in Northern Michigan. I grew up near East Jordan, Michigan in a house my parents built and still live in. I spent most of my young childhood playing in the hardwood forests, building tree forts, and playing sports with my two brothers.
A strong work ethic was instilled at a young age with my parents leading by example. We always worked for everything we got, played hard when the work was done, and life was good. I still believe one of the best core workouts is hauling and splitting maple and oak firewood with a heavy splitting maul.
When my Dad was around 40 he decided to get in better aerobic shape and started running. So at age 11, so did I. I enjoyed pushing my limits and had some moderate success at an early age. As one of the youngest in my grade, my development lagged a little behind and as a freshman in high school I was 5’6″ with a size 13 foot. I asked my Dad what I needed to do to get stronger and he had me doing sets of pull-ups (on the pull-up bar in the kitchen doorway), eating a tablespoon of peanut butter, and drinking a glass of milk each night before bedtime. With some fast growing and high impact sports I developed Osgood-Schlatter Disease which caused knee pain with all activity. I had two choices: either have my legs casted for 18 months or deal with the pain for two years.
I opted not to cast my legs, worked through the knee pain and worked hard in school. I prided myself on being a well rounded athlete as a basketball player and runner. My senior year I set school records in the 3200 meter and the pole vault. I graduated as Salutatorian of my class and an all-state cross country and track runner. Despite some success, I had to rely on academic scholarships to get through college. I walked on the cross country and track teams at Central Michigan University and after running Varsity Cross Country my freshman year, my knee pain returned. Surgery was the only answer and I spent most of my college running career trying to work around the pain.
In the spring of 2000 I finished up my undergraduate coursework, married my college sweetheart, and moved to Vail, Colorado all in the same month. This is where the next chapter begins.
I left Central Michigan feeling I had yet to tap into my potential as an endurance athlete. I knew I could be good at something and triathlon seemed like the sport for me. In college I had used biking as a way to keep some aerobic fitness and I splashed around in the pool a little bit. Unfortunately I had no formal swimming background.
The mountains and the thin air were the perfect stimulus for me. I bought a mountain bike from the pawn shop and decided I would jump into a 100 mile mountain bike race the next month that included over 13,000 feet of elevation gain. That was my introduction to high altitude racing.
I found snowshoe racing that first winter and discovered that I could be good at it. The next year I won the North American Snowshoe Championship and went on to win the National Snowshoe Championship.
My success in triathlon would not come so quickly. I tried an Xterra my first summer and I couldn’t believe how far behind the leaders I was. I knew I could improve a lot, but I had no idea how much. I have seen steady improvement since that first race, moving through the amateur ranks and now as a professional.
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