It’s a simple, three-word question. But, for me, it requires a pretty long explanation.

First, I need to explain why I’m a triathlete in the first place. Growing up,  I can remember watching the annual Kona broadcast. My father and I would sit in wonder of how these people could manage to pack 140.6 miles into a single day. I always had thought to myself, “That’d be awesome.” But by the end of December, that dream had been filed away again, to join whatever else I lost to the couch cushions.

You see, I was not exactly what one would call athletic. In fact, the only shape that I resembled during my younger days was “round.” At 18 and headed to my freshman year of college, I tipped the scales at a not-so-svelte 258 pounds.

Round, indeed.

I strolled into my doctor’s office for my pre-college physical, and was given a cold slap of reality to the face. I was told that if I came back in a year with the same blood pressure numbers, I’d be going on medication. Permanently.

As it turns out, I have a relatively strong fear of my mortality. It was the “oh crap” moment that turned a lightbulb in my head. Over the course of the next few years, I’d lost nearly 100 pounds. I met my lovely wife, Hannah, and her family. I started running road races while harboring the dream again of dabbling in triathlons.

And then December 2009 happened.

Peter, Hannah’s dad, and I connected well. Much like my own father, he had wisdom far beyond his academic credentials. Peter had built his own organic farm out of an acre in a tiny town in New Hampshire. He lived. And I learned a lot from him through the conversations we’d have, whether on a friendly visit or helping out at the farm stand at the yearly fair.

Peter had what we thought was a bad cold throughout the holidays. Right after Christmas, he went to the ER to have a check on things. They admitted him. Then words like “procedure,” “films,” and “biopsy” entered the fray.

Cancer. Sarcoma, to be exact.

The month of February was a blur. Three years ago this month, Peter went to have the tumor (and the lung that it had attached itself to) removed. The cancer was the size of a rugby ball. But the surgeon was confident it was all gone. In March, we rejoiced.

In April, we all came crashing to Earth: it was back.

Peter fought. He fought hard. And God, they tried everything. But cancer won.

We lost Peter in July. Cancer took him from us in a matter of months.

In the ensuing anguish, a fire burned within me: could I be next? What would happen if I don’t get to do what I want to do? What would Peter say/think/do?

My fear of mortality kickstarted me on my path. By August, I’d resolved that I was entering my first triathlon. No more kicking the can down the road. If Peter could be taken from us so quickly, then the future is no place to hide your dreams away. It was time to make it a reality.

My choice: the Half-Rev at Quassy.

Go big or go home, right? Well, go big I did:

I couldn’t help but weep as I crossed the line that day. So many emotions flooded through me. I was elated; I was proud; I was hurting; I wished Peter could be there.

The one feeling that kept coming back to me was that I felt like I could honor my family and friends in a way that words could not express. Their support, their hard work, their dedication. I could suffer for a few hours in an event. But I could feel a much deeper emotional connection.

That’s why I race as a triathlete; because I can hopefully take those lessons I have learned from family and friends and turn it into some type of reality It’s led me down an incredible road so far; getting the opportunity to be a member of Team Rev3 Triathlon and getting to know Charlie Patten and the rest of the Revolution3 Family. By extension, this meant getting to learn about the Ulman Cancer Fund and Team Fight. This January, I made my decision: I’m doing an event as a member of Team Fight.

So, back to the original question: Why Team Fight?

Well, the short answer is simple: so that someday, nobody has to feel the anguish of losing a loved one to cancer.

Of course, my answer goes a bit deeper: I don’t want a young adult to suffer through cancer. I don’t want a parent to have to bury their kid. For selfish reasons, I don’t want my wife to ever have to think about worrying of me battling cancer.

But much like my own place in this sport being about getting to honor friends and family, Team Fight is honoring those who are impacted by this disease.

We are racing for someone. We’re making sure that those who are battling now get their fair shot, and get to experience that emotional connection with someone out on the course. And we’re raising money for care, for research, for everything to make sure that in the future, we can get to a point where cancer does not need to be spoken about in survival rates and treatment efficacy. We can just say, “we can cure that.”

My goal is to raise $1,000 for the Ulman Cancer Fund this year via Team Fight. I plan on racing for Team Fight at Rev3 Maine in the Half distance event. I’ll be working hard to make sure I can put forth the same kind of effort that those battling this disease do on a daily basis.

My donation page appears here:

Interested in becoming a member of Team Fight? Learn more about their efforts here:

Follow Ryan here!