When a colleague tells you he just completed an Ironman and still finds time to volunteer, you know you need to get the details
Jason Everitt, a Service Officer here at Catchafire, appeared at work last Monday looking a little worse for wear. I wondered if he might have tied one on the night before. But it turned out the reasons were more interesting than an ill advised Sunday night bender. He had just completed New York’s Inaugural Ironman U.S. Championship, swimming 2.4 miles in the Hudson River, biking 112 miles and then topping it off with a full marathon (26.2 miles) for good measure. All while the rest of us were eating Ben and Jerry’s and watching the Olympics. Jason moved here from San Diego so maybe that partially accounts for his vim and vigor, but perhaps equally impressive, and frankly a little intimidating, was the rumor that in addition to his full time work bringing nonprofits into the Catchafire community, he also takes on Pro Bono Projects on the side! Here’s what he has to say for himself:
An Ironman! Why on earth would you do such a thing?
Until last year, I never thought about doing a triathlon. I was (am?) a terrible swimmer. My only experience on a bike was riding my beach cruiser to class and I hadn’t run more than three miles since graduate school. I registered for a sprint triathlon just to force myself to get healthy again. I trained hard and accomplished something I had never dreamed possible. I’ve been playing athletic chicken with myself ever since, signing up for bigger and bigger races and pushing my limits.
As a relatively recent New Yorker, did you learn anything about the city during your training?
I probably learned less about geography than I did about what it means to be a New Yorker. I was surprised at how quickly I felt like a part of New York’s incredibly warm and welcoming athletic community. We struggled up Harlem Hill together, exchanging words of encouragement, strangers offered to help me fix flat tires. New Yorkers are a lot different than the way they’re portrayed in the popular imagination.
You mentioned you had some “dark moments” during the race. Other than immersing yourself in the Hudson River, which must have accounted for at least one, what did you mean by that?
Your body just can’t keep it together over fifteen hours of racing. Eventually, it’s going to fail you. At around mile 17 of the marathon we had to climb the stairs that lead up to the George Washington Bridge. It was the last big push before the sweet, sweet downhills and straightaways in Manhattan and I knew my wife, Carly, was waiting to cheer me on just on the other side. But I had been cramping up pretty bad for the last hour and my foot was bleeding. On the very first stair, my legs completely seized up. I couldn’t lift them, couldn’t walk, couldn’t do anything but prop myself up against a handrail. Fear and self doubt had been with me off and on all day, but then pain showed up and suggested they form a super group to bring me down. In the end it wasn’t my body that got me to pull myself up those 70 stairs, it was my mind and my heart. I learned a lot about myself on those stairs.
That’s very cool, Jason. I hear you’re also working on a Pro Bono Project when you’re not at work or training?
I’m working on a Public Relations Plan with an amazing non-profit called Bottomless Closet. It’s the only New York-based organization helping women get back into the workforce by providing interview preparation, business attire, professional development and financial skills. Their mission really speaks to me because it’s so simple. It’s about helping these women with concrete tools to achieve the professional and economic success that we all want and deserve. But, not unlike many other non-profit organizations, Bottomless Closet is so busy doing great work they don’t have time to get their story to the media. I am helping them build a plan that will help them strategically communicate with the press, while staying clear about the staff and time limitations of the organization.
How do you fit it all in?
I’d be lying if I didn’t say religious time management and a very patient wife. Also, Catchafire encourages us to take “service days” which is paid time off for staff to take on meaningful volunteer projects. It’s very much a part of the culture here at Catchafire — to invest in service as a transformative experience. So that helps too.
Advice for prospective Ironman athletes and potential Pro Bono Professionals?
Set lofty goals. Attack them with gusto. You’ll be rewarded for it in the end.