It was the summer of 2004. For years I'd done races here and races there. A little of this and a little of that. I had some successes but my racing career was not one that I was proud of. I was in a massive period of stagnation.
Then a heard about a triathlon race weekend at Waterville Valley in New Hampshire. On road tri on Saturday and off road tri on Sunday. Sounds like a good time to me. We could camp and I could do a couple of triathlons. My kind of weekend.
Saturday morning brought buckets of rain. Crap. Oh well, at least I'll be cool for the road triathlon. I set up my transition area in the pouring rain and went to the beach to freeze for a while till I jumped into the chilly water for the 400m swim. Just before the race was to start the rain stopped and the sun peeked through.
Within minutes we were off and swimming. I didn't swim much in those days so I struggled a lot in the water. I was like a fish out of water... no, more like a cat in the water. I wasn't happy but I pushed through. Out of the water and onto the bike. Bike was better but still not great. The run was excellent but I couldn't make up for the time I'd lost in the water and on the bike. I finished 20th and was dejected.
I was mad at myself. I was mad about the way my career had gone since college. I was just plain mad and disappointed. In high school it was all about expectations for myself. In college about struggling to get back to where I'd been before. I had good years but fell short of where I could have been. After college had been one disappointment after another. I was over 30 now and not getting any younger. Here I'd thought myself a good triathlete and I proved otherwise on this day.
I took a long walk with my wife that night and thought long and hard about what I really wanted from racing and competing. Was it for me? Was there more out there? Could I be better? Should I just give up?
I decided to just race in the morning and see how it went. After all day 2 was an off road triathlon and I was a good mountain bike racer. Let's give it a shot.
The next days swim was better. I was a minute faster and feeling good. Then I got on the bike and my world changed. I was flying. I worked my way past the swimmers that beat me and into the lead. I felt great. Then came the moment it all changed for Rick Copley.
Have you ever had a moment like that? I moment that defines you for good of for bad? A moment that stand out as a transition in your life?
My moment was some dude passing me. This dudes name was Matt Boobar and boy was he fast. He was wearing a triathlon suit and riding like a warrior. I tried to stay with him but he just pulled away. Today was my day though and I taught Mr. Tri Guy a lesson on the run and passed him up! Matt had actually started in a wave behind me so in the results he and another guy had beaten me so I finished 3rd overall and that was that. I raced great and was happy going home. I felt like I did have a future in triathlon and I had some motivation to go after it! Then I got home and got on the internet.
Turns out Matt was an absolute champion and so was Ryan Kelley who was the other guy that beat me. Matt would go on that year to win the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP in XTerra. Ryan would place on the podium. Matt Boobar was the best in my age group in the whole entire world and I finished just a minute behind him in a race? (Matt and Ryan are both now professional triathletes) My goals and aspirations were about to change. No longer was I going to be the best in my town, or county, or state.. there were bigger fish to fry.
The next winter my wife and I made the decision to relocate to Florida. On the way to Florida in July we stopped to do the XTerra East Championships (XTerra is off road triathlon) in Richmond,VA. I raced hard and crossed the line exhausted. I was handed a result card. What did 3rd / 56 mean? Was I really 3rd in my age group? No way. If that is true then I qualified to race at the XTerra Worlds in Maui, Hawaii. No possible way. It was, however, true.
Race I did. That day in Maui I arrived on the XTerra scene and finished 63rd overall and 7th on my age group against the best in the world.
There is a point to all this personal story stuff. The point is this: Shoot for the stars. Don't settle for just being good. It was nice to be the best on my team in high school but I wanted to be the best in the state. So we did it. Don't just be the best in your little area. Be the best in the world at everything that you do!
It goes back to the Cub Scout motto that I've written about before. "Do you best." Do your best at each and every thing that you do. If you do the dishes make them the best, most orderly, dishes ever. If you have to do a project at work then make it the best project ever. Shoot for an A+!!
I've transformed myself from being a good to great triathlete by shooting for being the best in the world. You can have success in every area of your life it you strive to be the best that you can possibly be... ALWAYS.