In 2008 I’d been competing in weightlifting for about seven years and life was wonderful. I was a resident athlete at the Olympic Training Center, had just won the American Open, and felt on top of the world with all the momentum in my corner. I’d worked hard to get there and enjoyed having built a bit of a name for myself and being among “the people to beat” at most of the competitions I entered. I certainly considered myself a full-time athlete, and I put just about everything I had into aspirations to one day represent the US in the Olympic Games.

First international team I traveled with. We did two competitions in a a week in Sicily in July of 2007. There's one future Olympian in this photo, can you spot him?

Fast forward 10+ years and it would appear everything about athletics in my life has changed. And my 20 year-old self would agree (I can say that with confidence, I knew him pretty well).

I race bikes now, so the sport itself changed, but that’s not the point. I mean, forget national competitions, I struggle to be competitive in the local Tuesday night crit series. I’ll never show up to a race in another state and be recognized, and there’s no longer any “pie in the sky” kind of goals; there’s no Olympics, no crowds cheering, and no fame and fortune. 20 year-old me would say it’s time to hang it up and just get fat, because seriously, what’s the point?

Well with the benefit of what I like to think is wisdom, I’d posit that it’s actually all the same as it ever was. When I was weightlifting at that level it felt like we were on top of the world, but we were never going to make money doing it1, and any recognition we had was really in very niche circles (weightlifting is not a popular sport in the US, and was even less so before Crossfit drew attention to it). Even if I’d made it to the Games there’s no widespread notoriety, even winning gold probably wouldn’t land a weightlifter on daytime NBC. It felt good to have the level of support we did, but have a shitty day (or year) on a big stage and see how many people are still there after.

2011 World University Championships in Shenzhen, China. One from the warmup room and then the last competition snatch I ever took.

Now I have a family, a full-time job, and train 10-ish hours a week to race bikes. My weeks are fuller than they ever were weightlifting. I still train and compete pretty seriously, and my wife and friends come cheer for races. So I’m still giving it what I have to be the best I can, and I get to share it with people important than me. So it may sound cliché, but seriously, that’s all it ever was.

Trying to escape the peloton at the local crit. I made it long enough to earn "most combative" on the night and a pack of root beer, but the pack definitely caught me.
  1. And for those of my peers who have made a living weightlifting, it’s not actually the lifting part. It’s coaching or running a gym. Still in the game, for sure, but not as an athlete. Except that guy in the header photo, but only after switching sports. 

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