Mission Accomplished: 21 70.3s in 21 Days

By Jeff Fairbanks | Oct. 11, 2016, 5:34 p.m. (ET)

triumph project

So this is now a reality for me — I’ve completed 21 consecutive 70.3s in 21 different cities. I’m not a paid athlete, I haven’t received corporate dollars to get this done, nor did I have a crew to help facilitate or mitigate logistics. My team was my small family consisting of my wife and god-cousin (videographer/editor). Luckily my in-laws surprised us up in Maine to help support the journey and hang out with the kiddos (3 and 6).

I’m not sure I would have believed you if you asked if I could pull it off. I honestly had no clue. I had never run two 70.3s back to back. In fact, I had never run more than 6-8 miles during my self-taught training for this journey, so there were a lot of what-if scenarios playing out in my mind as the journey approached.

Let me back up to explain how we handled the logistics of even getting going for a three-week East Coast journey when we lived on the West Coast. That was simple; we sold almost everything we owned! We packed the belongings and kiddos into a truck equipped with a camper trailer and made our way east. And why 21 days, you ask? Simple, that was as much vacation time as I’d saved up from my normal job.

triumph projectMany of my challenges along the way were minimized by the company and comments received from everyone. The community that came out to support me along the journey was definitely one of the highlights. In particular, Grimesland, North Carolina, introduced me to my first experience of being in a peloton, which was completely foreign to me. A good friend of mine had passed away before my journey had begun, and this was his hometown. I had nervous feelings about being able to make it that far, as that would be day 14.

We arrived the night before around midnight and awoke to gear up for a 9 a.m. start. When I opened the camper door and witnessed the amount of people and cars parked all along the cul-de-sac, I teared up. That day was overwhelming to me and it recharged for the remaining week left.

Riding with 15-20 people in a riding group brought back memories of motocross. Hearing the sounds of wheels moving, the tightness of the group and the ability to converse with multiple people along the 56 miles was incredible. I still think about that day.

New York was probably one of the most challenging days, logistically speaking. After being denied access to the ferry due to clearance issues with the trailer, we were not allowed to swim at the desired pool. Two pool locations actually shut us down for not being NY residents. The area was beautiful, but we had to adapt quickly to get going on the day’s efforts. It was one of the longest days with logistics and pushed us the furthest back for start times.

One of the scariest moments was in Kiawah Island where we were luckily allowed to swim in the lake that was going to be utilized for an upcoming race. I’m always afraid of things in the water and this was no exception to the case. It was one of the longest 1.2-mile swims. I had my head up constantly, trying to go through what I’d do should I see a gator coming at me. Then I’d start thinking, I don’t think there is anything I could do if a gator starting coming at me! The highlight was when a dog jumped in the water and did some yardage with me toward the end of my swim, which made me feel a little better.

There were many people who accompanied me, and I was lucky to see determination and heart in true form. I was humbled at the company to begin with, but to see the determination to push through was completely inspiring. A few people were having hard times on the runs, but they wouldn’t let it defeat them. I never wanted to drop anyone, so I’d do small out and backs or circle if they ever needed to walk. I’d get this rush of motivation when they’d start running with me again for another few miles. I can’t express enough how impactful that was.

The last day in Florida was one of the hottest and most humid with an index of over triple digits. Due to travel logistics for our cameraman, we began at 7 a.m. sharp, which put us out on the run during the middle of the day (nearest to the hottest part of the day as well). There was huge company for the final day’s efforts. One couple in particular had traveled from Texas to endure three days of efforts with me, which was just amazing. The swim and bike were amazing, especially the coastal ride, which was flat and didn’t encounter a ton of headwind. But the run was another story. Not much wind and a ton of heat and humidity were taking its toll on everyone. I would do 1.5-mile out-and-backs to return back for the people needing ice and to drop off people needing cooling efforts as a means to not overheat. It was important to me to not leave anyone behind so most people would do portions of the run with me and then wait to cool off and join again.

Overall, I just wanted to live up to a grand idea I had created one winter night. We all have the ability within ourselves to challenge our own self-doubt and show ourselves that we can do more. It may have nothing to do with triathlon, and that’s OK, but it will have everything to do with how you feel moving forward once you gone beyond whatever limits you may have set for yourselves. So if any part of my journey helps shed light on something that was once thought out of reach, please relook at that, make a plan, and never let the darkness get in the way of driving forward toward it. Oh yeah, and along the way, crush it with a smile!

Read about Jeff’s inspiration for the journey here. Follow him at thetriumphproject.org or on Instagram.

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