I get a lot of comments on my family. For one, yes there are a lot of us Morrisons. Nine to be exact. Secondly, most of us do hit the gym every once in a while. Or twice a day. Or five. I guess I will agree with the “cover of body building family,” or “freak triathlon family,” or “it’s just the gene pool” comments.
However it wasn’t always like this in my family. On my run today I got to thinking about how much my family has to do with my triathlon obsession because of their never ending support and enthusiasm for my crazy habits. I owe everything to them, and then some. I wanted to put down on paper, well put it out in the infinite interweb for the NSA to read, so I could lay out how my family grew into this super-athletic-motivated group of people.
My parents both attended the University of Florida. My mom was a cheerleader, my dad an avid cyclist/triathlete throughout their college life. To this day my mom will tell you she hates running and working out, she was always the girly girl J Neither of them took their sports too seriously; my dad attempted the 2nd Annual Great Clermont Triathlon back in the day and ended up walking half of the run.
They both got married right after college, and stuck with the working life. My mom, a civil engineer, started staying at home with myself and my first brother for most of our childhood while my dad stayed a workin-man. Kid, after kid, after kid…well you may know the story. In short, there are 7 of us now and the tides have turned. My dad stays at home while my mom is back in the engineering business doing her thang.
Back to athletics. My dad required all of his kids to stay on the local year-round club swim team until they were at least 14. I was one of the few who continued swimming into high school. By college, I was burned out and so I actually was recruited to the Air Force Academy for cross country. Even then, I felt like something was missing. I joined the tri club team on the side, and fell in love.
I still was not that good, maybe average at best, and my family didn’t really do anything crazy in the workout world either. My junior year of college after Ironman Wisconsin was when things started to finally click in my mind and in my body. I had somehow qualified for Kona on very little training or experience at the Ironman distance. It was this moment that I knew that I had to work my butt off for almost year so I could show myself something while racing at Kona. I began training more than ever. I used to think running twice per day was a lot—I discovered that it was not even close. I was swimming, biking, running in all my free time. I was doubling workouts that I used to think were hard. I was doing higher intensity and I started eating better. I literally went from about 150lbs to 122ish in less than a year. Not lying!
All of this paid off at March 2012 Collegiate Nationals where I managed a podium finish. It showed me that hard work truly can pay off, you just have to be honest with yourself in the deciding whether you actually ARE working hard or not.
This snowballed into the summer with more and more and more hard work. This is when my family started catching the bug.
One of my sisters, Heidi, came home one day and said “Sam, I just ran 2 miles without stopping! What should I eat now?”
The same weekend, my brother came home and made a protein shake, instead of his usual bowl of ice cream.
They were subtle changes, but they were there.
My sister Erin, who had never ran a day in her life, looked up the “Couch to 5k” plan on the internet and began it on her own. I was not coaxing any of this! I just talked about triathlon, I told my family I couldn’t eat their fried chicken and wings on Friday nights, and my family started to catch on.
Things really started changing after I placed 3rd at Kona in 2012. My dad had come to the race, and fell in love. He got back to the states and bought a brand new Trek Speed Concept, an even nicer version than I had! What the heck.
My sister Heidi had joined cross country and was number one on the team in her first season. She now was running solid 9 mile training runs at 7 minute pace. Pretty amazing for a 10th grader.
My Couch to 5k sis was solid in her 3 mile runs now. She would run before her 3 hour club-swimming practices, and all she could talk about was running.
Even my mom was running daily in the local trails. It was all she could talk about!
Throughout 2013, I worked even harder. It was easier when I went home to keep up my training regime because my family had even begun cooking healthier for themselves along with working out more. My dad got hooked on the Paleo craze and my mom also started cooking all natural foods. Every time I turned around half my family was out of the house at the gym or by my side on runs and bikes.
Leading up to 2013 Kona I was lucky enough to have family who could beat me in the individual triathlon sports. My 14 year old sister Erin, the swimmer, would come swim with me at the local YMCA and remind me how out-of-shape I was in the water compared to a national level swimmer. My 16 year old sister Heidi (the one who, last summer, was ecstatic about running 2 miles) had asked me to sign her up for the VA Rock n Roll Half Marathon for her birthday. I ran it with her as some Kona training and she kicked my butt with around a 1hour 30min finish time and first in her age group. My dad had gotten very quick on his new triathlon bike, and I would come home from work in North Carolina on the weekends only to have him completely tear my legs up by killing me on 100-mile rides around Virginia.
Not only did my family prep me physically for Kona in 2013, but mentally as well. Having this support system who accepted my long training hours and also made sure that I was provided with the things needed to do it means so much to me. It is hard to sit on a bike for 5 hours; with family support it is almost as if I didn’t have to try.
As the countdown to Kona grew shorter, my dad and I got more and more bummed that the flight costs were skyrocketing. It looked as if he wasn’t going to be able to come out to watch like he did in 2012. I decided that family was way more important than money, and I begged him to come if I bought the ticket. SO WORTH IT! Had to give up some clothes and shoe purchases for the next couple months, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
SO, my dad came to Kona. I attribute my success at the race to having my dad to look forward to seeing at all the hot spots on the course. When my legs would hurt, I would just think “Go faster so you can see Dad again.”
It ain’t over yet.
Ever since Kona 2013, it is as if I lit another match under my family’s butts. My dad signed up for 2014 Great Clermont Triathlon so he could try to redeem himself. He also asked me to race it! I cannot wait for that race weekend. He has huge goals for this race, and every time I talk to him he tells me about his daily workout. It makes me really happy.
My brother David started lifting and running even harder. He is the top of his class at the University of Florida on a full scholarship, and headed to med school in the near future.
My brother Robby is trying to one-up David; he is at the University of Alabama on a full academic scholarship in computer engineering. He is set to graduate with not only his bachelor’s degree, but his master’s within the 4-year college plan.
Heidi is deep in her Air Force Academy application process, and it is her dream to run cross-country there. I believe she can do it, and I will be there every step (probably quick, bounding steps) along the way.
The rest of the kids—Erin, Adam, and Kelly—continue winning their swim meets and rackin’ up the medals. I hope that they continue to dream big and work hard, because it is the sole reason that I continue to work hard. Setting a good example and seeing it take effect for my 6 younger siblings is the most rewarding part of this whole thing we call life.
You may think I forgot about my beautiful mother. Well, she is still doing her thing- better than ever. She is a hard working engineer-mother of 7- runner-swimmer-superhero-who never stops.
She makes sure that all her 7 kids (9 including my dad and dog) are well-fed, clean, and rested for their countless hours of studies and sports. None of us would be where we are today with her positive attitude and never ending selflessness.
Well, I know I didn’t do my family the justice they deserve in the effect they have on my training and daily lifestyle, but I hope that I began to show a little of how much they mean to me.