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10 Life Lessons From 10 Triathlon Races by Guest Blogger Richard Dyrkacz

On August 19, 2018, I completed my 10th full Ironman Triathlon in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec (3.8 km swim, 180 km bike, 42.2 km run with a time of 14:06:48). Over the past few weeks, I thought it would be interesting to share ten things that I learned from doing these races:

1. If you think your accomplishments are amazing, be prepared to get humbled fast. This past Sunday, I met an older gentleman before the 3.8 km swim segment of Ironman Mont-Tremblant. He told me that he was 77 years old and he was about to attempt his 30th full Ironman. I would also like to note that he didn’t start racing in Ironman Triathlons until he was 70!

2. If you see somebody that you know that is struggling and you help him or her out when they are in desperate need, they will be grateful for you. Over the years, I have seen many great athletes struggle at this distance, especially during the second half of the marathon segment. Offer people support and encouragement, especially when they are in desperate need. This can be applied to real life. For example, if you know somebody that has been searching for a job for over a year and cannot find anything, try to help this person out. It is so easy to ignore them and not lift a finger; anybody can do that. Even the slightest bit of help can make a major positive impact in somebody’s life and they would be more than happy to make it up to you or pay it forward.

3. The best advice that I was given for participating in an Ironman (and yes, even real life) is that there are many things that you will not be able to control such as the weather and the course conditions; however, you can control your attitude. This advice has really helped me during times where I have hit rock bottom in an Ironman and absolutely nothing was going my way especially during the marathon segment. Although this can be very difficult at times, I have found that even looking for the slightest positive thing during a very bad situation can change your perspective on things.

4. The rewards of mentorship are priceless. Back in 2011 when I was working on my PhD, one of my fellow classmates, Jeff Delorme, wanted to finish an Ironman and signed up for Ironman Canada the following year despite not running more than 6 miles in his life. Over the next year, I taught and trained him everything that I knew while doing workouts that most normal people would never consider doing. In the end, he successfully finished with an amazing time (~11.5 hours). Although it is great to achieve your own personal successes, sometimes it is better to help and watch your friends succeed in achieving their goals. Offer to be a mentor to help your friends achieve their goals and the rewards are priceless.

5. I truly believe that the Kaizen technique can be extremely powerful for the long term. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this, everyday you try to become 1% better at a certain task. As many of you know, I don’t come from an athletic background nor do I possess a single athletic gene. After years and years of hard work while trying to become a little bit better each day, I can say I finished my 10th Ironman and I only know a handful of friends that have done more than me. Additionally, I am officially a 2018 Ironman All World Athlete where I am supposedly ranked within the top 10% of the world (I’ll be the first to admit that I still find this hard to believe but feel free to check the Ironman AWA rankings and you will see me there). I don’t say this to brag; I want to highlight how powerful constant improvement can be even if it is a tiny bit each and everyday. The Kaizen principle can be applied to many different areas of life such as work, sports, and even relationships.

6. I think this point is the most serious and I cannot stress this one enough. If doing something even remotely dangerous, always have somebody around just in case if the inevitable should happen. A few years ago, a good friend and triathlon teammate of mine was training for Ironman Florida in a swimming pool and I believe he had a cardiac arrest. Although the lifeguard came to rescue him, he unfortunately slipped away. As some of my family and friends know, I finished Ironman Florida in 2017 in memory of him. I know many triathletes think they are great swimmers (and many of you are!) but I think it is always a great idea to have a lifeguard or even have a friend swim nearby in case something unexpected should happen. This can be applied to other areas, particularly my engineering colleagues, such as working with hazardous chemicals and equipment. It is always devastating to lose a family member or a great friend.

7. Be incredibly grateful to everybody that helps you along the road and always show your appreciation. For the full Ironman events in particular, there are a lot of sacrifices that have to be made by the athlete, but also by their significant other, their family, and friends. Make sure you sincerely thank them each and every time for all of the help and support they gave you because it is not always about you.

8. Over the years, I have tried incredibly hard to encourage people to try and finish an Ironman at some point in their life. Although many people would like to do it, I always hear the same excuses. I have met so many people over the years that overcame incredible adversity and made no excuses. Here are some of the most common excuses:

I’m too old: Well, if you read point #1, you read about the 77 year old man that did Ironman Mont-Tremblant with me and he only started when he was 70. Additionally, when I did Ironman Canada in 2012, I met and witnessed Sister Madonna Buder (the Iron Nun) finish the 3.8 km swim, 180 km bike ride, and run a full 42.2 km marathon and she was 82 years old! Even at the age of 88, she is still active in triathlon!

I’m too overweight: I can see why many people would say this but what most people don’t know is that many Ironman finishers that I have met with struggled with this problem and overcame the odds. One prime example is my Facebook friend Marcus Cook. He used to weigh over 500 pounds. In two years, he lost over 300 pounds and finished Ironman Texas! If he can do it, you can too.

My Body Won’t Let Me: I fully agree that not everybody can finish an Ironman. However, I believe that if the majority of people reading this legitimately tried and put in the amount of work, most of you can do it. For example, Hector Picard is an amazing and inspirational triathlete. Over 30 years ago while working as an electrical worker, he lost both of his arms and became a double-arm amputee. Hector is a multiple Ironman finisher. Another great example is Scott Rigsby. As a former US soldier, he lost both of his legs and despite being a double leg amputee, he has finished multiple full Ironmans. And of course, there is the story of Team Hoyt. If you have absolutely no idea who they are, stop reading this and watch this video, especially if you are a parent. Even if you have zero interest in athletics, this is one of the most inspirational stories you’ll ever come across in your life.

Long story short – quit making excuses for that big goal you want.

9. In some areas of life, the only way to achieve a goal is hard work. Sadly, there are many areas where people can get what they want simply because of their wealth, education, position, who they know / relationships, their physical attractiveness, and/or political power. Guess what? None of this matters when trying to finish an Ironman J. It’s going to all come down to how much work and preparation you did and everything is entirely dependent on you and nobody else.

10. I have learned that many people deep down have some sort of dream goal that they want to achieve and sadly, many people are afraid to pursue it for a variety of reasons. For some people I know, these goals include climbing Mount Everest, being an actor/actress, going back to school later in life to become a MD, being a seven-figure entrepreneur, visiting all seven continents, among other things. Although these goals are incredibly tough, I believe that if you are absolutely committed, work extremely hard, and give it your absolute all, anything is possible. By doing these races, I have met athletes who have achieved every single one of these goals listed above by having this attitude and having a diligent work ethic. There will be lots of hiccups along the way and you will want to give up in the worst way imaginable. But in the end when you arrive at that finish line, there is no greater sense of euphoria in the world! You only live life once… go for it!

Richard Dyrkacz recently completed his 10th Ironman event and is a PhD Mechanical Engineer.  He is presently seeking opportunities and can be reached at



How to Obtain Productive Results From a Conference

You signed up for a convention and are eagerly reviewing the program.  Wow!  So many events to see and do.  What is the best way to spend your time?  It can be physically, mentally and financially demanding.  Conferences can be a big investment in terms of the registration fees, accommodation and time.  Here’s how you can get the most out of your investment in order to survive and thrive.

  1. Know your objectives and plan your attack.  Why did you sign up?  Why are you there?  Be very clear on what you want to achieve. When reviewing the program, it is easy to get distracted.  Purposefully plan each day and seek others in your line of business.  Work on developing your skill set, technical knowledge and contacts.
  2. Attend the sessions.  Yes, it is easy to skip out and have an extra drink in the bar.  But…you signed you for a reason and you may miss out on something important.  Take copious notes on the areas that are relevant to you.  Also consider how you can apply these ideas.  
  3. Divide and conquer. Often two or three great sessions occur at the same time. Find someone else who is interested in your topic.  Attend the sessions and share your notes and handouts.
  4. After each session choose 1 or 2 actions that you will explore or action.  It might be tempting to write down 5 or 6 actions, but let's keep it manageable.
  5. At the end of the day, take 10 minutes to go over your notes.  Request the presentation deck from the speakers, if they stood out.  What did you learn and what will you do with what you have learned?  Hallway or bar discussions are a great way to compare your learnings with others.  Ask the question, “What was your most important learning today? “ Or “What was the highlight of your day?”  This is one way to get the conversation going.
  6. Plan your next day as you revisit your objectives.
  7. Swap notes with others.  They will be most appreciative.  It is also a great way to establish connections or reconnect with people you have not seen for a while.
  8. On the way home, review the notes once again and prioritize a list of what you will action.
  9. Have an accountability partner or master mind group to keep your actions active.
  10.  As Nike would say, “Just do it!”