Five years ago, I was checking myself into a psych ward after the depths of depression almost led me to take my own life. On Sunday June 24th, 2018, at 11:47 pm, 19 hours and 37 minutes after stepping into the dark, murky waters of Roosevelt Lake and one year after pulling out of this same race eight miles into the run, I found myself standing atop the 10,000-foot Kendrick’s Peak after shuffling my way up the 4.7-mile trail in the pitch black of the night. From the lowest of lows to one of the highest points in all of Arizona, I had completed Project DM.
The road that led me to the finish line of Project DM was a personal one. A 2.4-mile swim in Roosevelt Lake, a 126-mile uphill bike ride to Flagstaff with 10,000 feet of climbing, and a 34.7-mile run/hike through Flagstaff to the top of Kendrick’s Peak was something that sounded so ridiculous that I knew I needed to give it a shot. My journey began after hearing of the race from Alec Tripp in 2016 after he completed it for the first time. I was in awe at just how amazing his accomplishment was and wondered what it would be like if I attempted it. Triathlon has been, and will continue to be, the vehicle through which I grow ever farther away from the depression that I struggled with so mightily in the past. A 163-mile journey that would take me from the desert floor to one of the highest points in Arizona immediately captured my attention as another positive step in my life-long journey.
I first attempted the race in 2017, running into some issues with the higher altitude that would eventually force me to pull out of the race eight miles into the run. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life to pull out of the race, but I knew that I would be back in 2018 to finish what I started. Armed with the lessons I had learned from my 2017 attempt and fueled by an insatiable desire to experience a life of meaning, I took on the challenge once again. My efforts and those of my incredible support team proved to be just enough. After a seemingly effortless swim, a strong bike, and 30 miles of running/walking, I found myself in a weakened state at the base of the mountain I had to summit to reach the finish. Only 4.7 miles lay between me and the culmination of my epic journey.
As I crept higher into the ever-thinning air, slurring my words and struggling to keep upright, I prayed for the agony to cease. Guided by nothing more than a few feet of dimly-lit trail in front of my shuffling feet, I pressed onwards in search of the reasons why I chose to put myself through this pain and suffering. I had been struggling for the past 4-5 hours by now, mustering as much strength as I could just to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I didn’t find any answers on the peak of that mountain, but rather found the answers I was looking for in the 18-month journey that led me to stand atop Kendrick’s Peak just shy of midnight.
The 19 hours and 37 minutes that it took me to complete Project DM was not the reward at the end of a journey. It was the expression of lessons learned that will carry me forward for the rest of my life. I experienced more in the 18 months that led me to complete Project DM than I could have ever fathomed when I first decided to embark on the journey. I learned of the incredible power that is found in the love and support of others. I experienced the priceless rewards of giving back to others and the joy that is realized through giving back to the community. I experienced many failures that have molded me into a better version of myself. I discovered new realms of self-confidence that the first 23 years of my life never garnered. Most importantly, I solidified my belief that true happiness is found in the journey and not in the destination.
None of this would have been possible without the many amazing people in my life and without those that have helped me throughout this journey. There are honestly too many people to thank here without rambling on and on. My biggest and most immediate thanks go out to my incredible support team on the day of the race, Taylor Newgaard, Christine Glissmann, Diane Bruchhauser, and Jared Miller. I literally would not have made it to the top of that mountain without their support. I owe another huge thank you to Dirk Ross, the man behind Project DM, and all of those that help to put on this event each year. It is an amazing event with an even greater cause, with all race entry fees for the race going towards charity. It’s the perfect event to push one’s limits to completely new heights, and I will be forever thankful to have had the experiences that I had preparing for and conquering this personal challenge. The rewards of Project DM far outweigh the temporary suffering endured.