A Different Kind of Triathlon – Defying the Odds


One of the components of a ‘winning mindset’ is overcoming fear. We tend to focus too much on the negative.  Learning to deal with fear means putting your negative thoughts in perspective.

When fear causes you to feel defeated before you even start the battle, try to overcome a challenge, or try doing something you have never done before.

For me, that challenge was competing in the Mountain Man Winter Triathlon on the rugged mountain terrain of Colorado’s White River National Forest, despite being a flatlander/lowlander from Texas and having never been on cross country skies and snowshoes.  I was told I would be able to finish due to the dramatic altitude shifts and steep inclines.  Some call it the “winter Ironman.”  The course description was most intimidating.

It is one of the most brutal tests of winter mountaineering the human body is capable of performing in one day.   The three events, in order in which they will be run, are cross country skiing, snowshoe running and speed skating.  All three stages should consume most of the short winter daylight hours.  Contestants should be prepared to spend or all of race in unpredictable weather patterns that the winter mountain climate has to offer. 

Adding to the intimidation factor was the altitude; the race start was at 8500 feet above sea-level with over 14,000 feet in elevation change during the race.  The highest point of the race is 11,400, the summit of Beaver Creek Mountain; the wind chill factor one year was -85.MMWTski (2)

To overcome fear, you must first acknowledge it, but not focus on it.  Identify and write down your strengths and weaknesses.  Promote the ones you do well.  Come to terms with your weaknesses/obstacles.  You may need to improvise. In my case, training for a race involving three cold-weather events and extreme elevation is not easily done in Dallas, where temperatures rarely dip below freezing and the elevation barely tops sea level.  I had to improvise; all race preparation was through muscle-specific cross-training to assimilate the different events.

Change the way you view failure; embrace it. Failures are part of the mindset-changing process and you should not be afraid of them.   Use it as an opportunity to learn from your mistakes.  Learn to accept challenges.  If you are going to succeed at anything, there will be challenges and sometimes failure.

Articulate the positive outcome of overcoming your fear.  For me, my positive outcome was crossing the finish line and having the satisfaction of knowing I could achieve something naysayers said was not possible.  Defeat fear be for it defeats you.

A winning mindset takes courage and diligence.  It can help you step out of your comfort zone.  Your mindset drives the choices you make, and the habits you create.  When was the last time you did something for the first time?

The Mountain Man is a metaphor of life and it taught me so much.  Just like in life, there are many ups and downs in the race; how you handle adversity will define you.  This race took me beyond my perceived limits and helped prepare me for the biggest challenge of my life – cancer.


About the blogger @tomhulsey

Tom completed 6 Mountain Man Winter Triathlons, bettering his finish time each year;  a total improvement of over 1 and a half hours since that initial race (sponsored by Nordic Track).   He also completed 11 IRONMANs (2 post-cancer).

After he conquered cancer and survived a heart attack,  Tom became a staunch advocate for men’s health issues and helping those dealing with life challenges.

Today his focus is on awareness, research and education.  Tom is a Board Member at Mary Crowley Cancer Research (“hope live here”), Reviewer & Mentor for the DoD’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs and Board Member at ZERO The End of Prostate Cancer.

He was the recipient of the 2019 Lauren Beam Philanthropy Award at the New York University School of Professional Studies and the Preston Robert Tisch Institute for Global Sport for his “dedication and contributions toward philanthropic efforts that resulted in significant, positive effects on the world of sports and beyond.”

Tom is the author of THE WINNING MINDSET THAT SAVED MY LIFE.   Net proceeds from book sales benefit cancer research and education. The book has achieved a 5-star rating on Amazon.


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