Seven Summits. Two Poles. One million to combat childhood obesity.
On the morning of January 1st, 2016, I will be waking up to attempt a world-record breaking mountaineering expedition – climbing the tallest peak on each continent as well as trekking to the North and South Poles faster than anyone has ever done before. But less than eight years ago, I found myself waking up to a dramatically different scenario – the ICU of a small hospital in Thailand.
I remember there was a cat running around my hospital bed. I was in agonizing pain. I was told I sustained second and third degree burns that covered my legs and feet, and that I might never walk again normally.
Having spent the better part of my life as an elite athlete, this news was devastating.
My mom stayed with me in the Thai hospital for the many weeks, caring for me as only a mother can do. In an effort to keep my mind occupied, she would ask me about the future.
“What do you want to do when we leave here?” she asked. In a rare moment of clarity, I replied without hesitation, “I want to complete a triathlon.”
Growing up in Portland, Oregon, I was a very active kid. I excelled as a state champion soccer player and swimmer, and I was recruited to swim at Yale University where I earned a BA in Economics in 2006. In addition to these sports, I took advantage of the Pacific Northwest. I was often off climbing, hiking, and skiing in the outdoors guided by my Eagle Scout father. But triathlon was something I had never done before.
However when I said those words to my Mom in the hospital, the idea was fixed in my mind. A goal had been set, and I was determined to beat the odds.
My rehabilitation was slow at first having arrived home in a wheel chair from Bangkok. Day by day I focused on my recovery, determined to heal, walk again and use my legs. Fast forward 18 months, I was working in Chicago after countless months of rehab, but true to my word I started training to complete my first triathlon.
The 2009 Chicago triathlon had more than 4000 participants. I surprised many others and myself that day; I not only completed the race, but placed first overall. Completing my first triathlon with a win was a bonus, but more importantly the ultimate sign of my recovery.
My life changed that day as I secured my first sponsor and was given the opportunity to compete as a professional triathlete. Since then, I have represented Team USA in professional competition in 25 countries on six different continents.
I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs, but overall the experience I have had racing around the world has been amazing. The most everlasting emotion has not been the exhilaration of winning, but rather the joy of pursuing my passion each day and striving to be my best self.
Through this journey, I have realized the deep passion I have for impacting change on a grander scale, something greater than just my own success on the racecourse. Through that realization and many conversations with my fiancé (and biggest supporter) Jenna, the idea for BEYOND 7/2 was born. Our goal from the outset was to use the platform of my athleticism for a greater purpose and impact change.
In 2016, I am embarking on a mission to set the world record for the Explorers Grand Slam. I aim to be the fastest person to climb each of the “Seven Summits” (the tallest mountain on each continent), as well as trek to both the North and South poles.
By completing this all in under six months, I will become the fastest in history to claim this prize.
My goal in this expedition is not just to set a world record, but also to help create sustainable change for the next generation– and that begins by supporting our young people, our kids – giving them every opportunity to live their best lives. And that starts with health.
Childhood obesity rates have tripled in the USA over the last few decades. With parents in the natural food industry as my role models, and an intimate personal connection to health and fitness, it is painful to see this unhealthy trend in our country. My goal with BEYOND 7/2 is to use the media and narrative of my world record journey to raise $1M for The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a leading nonprofit in the fight to combat the childhood obesity epidemic.
When Jenna (my fiancée) and I dedicated our lives to BEYOND 7/2 last year, we knew we wanted our work to benefit this important cause. We vetted a number of organizations in this space and were thrilled to find The Alliance. Their reach is vast, directly impacting 20 million kids in over 29,000 schools nationwide, and they do it all with little overhead costs. More than 86% of their budget goes directly to programs. The Alliance is a top-level organization doing great work, and I am thrilled to be supporting them with my efforts.
More important than the world record goal, or the $1M goal, is my goal to reach and inspire as many kids and families as possible. It is not my intention to showcase my abilities as an untouchable climber. Rather, I want to show what is possible when we set ourselves big goals and dare to dream to achieve them. My hope is that BEYOND 7/2 inspires people to get outside, eat healthy, set a goal and reach to achieve it. Maybe that’s training to run a local 5k, adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet or swapping soda for water. All goals are worthy no matter how big or small. Dare to find your Everest, whatever that happens to be in your life and #GoBEYOND.
Be part of the Journey: Follow @Beyond_72