The Biggest Race of My Life

Until Chaps connected with the right hook, I thought I was well-prepared for the interview.


Lindsey Schmidt from Ironman’s PR firm reached out a few months ago to say they heard my story. Ironman wanted to get me on a cool, new veteran podcast to talk about why I race. It would be a chance to talk about the Marines on my jersey that keep me moving towards the finish line. I agreed to do the interview.  I wrote an eBook  about the Mind, Body, and Spirit. Finally, a chance to talk to a larger audience about a great way to deal with PTSD!

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The interview started out great (listen to it here). We talked about how I went into the Marine Corps, ditched the band and joined the infantry, and shipped out to Iraq. He asked me what house-to-house fighting was like in Fallujah. Chaps was there in 2007 and has walked the streets of the former Baath Party hub. And of course, we chatted about how triathlon has helped me deal with the demons of PTSD and turn it into something positive. So Chaps throws the verbal jab and I take the bait.

“I bet you wish you could do this on a bigger stage, like, do this on the biggest race out there.”


Chaps biggest race of my life

Uncle Chaps, Marine Corps vet and Zero Blog Thirty host


Of course I would. But Chaps doesn’t know that the big stage of the Hawaii Ironman takes years of sweat and sacrifice by the most dedicated and talented athletes in the world. So I fill the poor guy in. He doesn’t know. That’s way off, but maybe someday.


“Well that’s weird, because I’m going to be the one to tell you that you’re going this year!”



knockout punch biggest race of my life

“You’re going to Kona, sucka!”

His hook finds purchase and I hit the canvas.  Ding ding ding! Knockout. Get the stretcher. I find out that Lindsey and Chaps had planned this surprise a while back. The flood of feelings took me downstream fast.

  • Shock- Wait, what did he just say???
  • Excitement- Holy shit. He just said I’m going to Kona.
  • Disbelief- Am I dreaming??  This doesn’t happen.
  • Unworthiness – People train for this their whole lives. Who am I to go to the Ironman World Championships?
  • Pride – This is the biggest stage in triathlon and you’re damn right I’m gonna bring my guys with me to Kona.
  • Resolve- I have the honor of representing brave men, the fallen of 1st Battalion, 8th Marines on the big stage. It’s on. Nothing will stop me.

ironman_kona_start_finish biggest race of my life

kona swim start biggest race of my life

So even after Ironman Santa Rosa  in a couple weeks, I be training even harder. Kona is only  a few months away, but the time is ticking. The stage has been set and now it’s my turn to get ready.

kona turtle 1600 biggest race of my life



The Biggest Race of My Life

After a week of initial shock, I decided that since this race is about more than me, I would use the opportunity to help others. Honor the fallen by helping the living. It’s a mindset that made Ironman 70.3 California so meaningful when I raised  a few thousand dollars for the Challenged Athletes Foundation. I realized a worthy organization was sitting right in my backyard.

Sentinels of Freedom has been helping wounded veterans get into meaningful careers for over 10 years.  Based in San Ramon, California, the national organization provides assistance for veterans and their family so they can become self-sufficient and effective community leaders. As one Sentinel states, “it’s not charity, it’s an investment.”

Brian Vargas biggest race of my life

My friend, Brian Vargas, a Marine and Sentinel of Freedom Alumnus

So I decided to make my trip to Kona meaningful by setting a fundraising goal of $18,000. I don’t know how I can raise this much, but I know that there are people who want to help veterans and are looking for a way to do it. Some of us volunteer, some of us work for the V.A. clinics, and some people are able to give monetarily.


No pitiful commercials about broken, helpless vets. Let’s flush that stereotype down the toilet.



I’m here to inspire people to give to an organization that empowers veterans. They don’t need our pity, trust me. They just need a bridge back home from war.  I’m not here to guilt anyone into forking over their hard-earned money. I want to inspire people to do something great.


If you are so inspired, help me and Sentinels of Freedom continue to empower veterans by making a tax-deductible donation today. Please share this post with your friends and family through email and social media to help me get the word out. We have the chance to do something great here!

Sentinels of Freedom logo biggest race of my life










Author: mike

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