On 8th October 2011 at the Ironman world championships in Kona, Eric Harr will attempt to break the 9 hour barrier and in the process raise $1 million dollars for CARE, a leading global humanitarian organisation of which he’s an ambassador, via Twitter.
While many will know him as a TV host, newspaper and magazine columnist, author of five triathlon books (including the best selling Triathlon Training in 4 hours a Week) and leading social strategist, he’ll need to execute a near perfect race to do what only 48 people did last year (in good conditions) and go sub 9 in arguably the toughest one day sporting event in the world.
A former competitive swimmer for Marin Academy, a degree in French Literature saw him land a job as a (less than trim) legal clerk in the US Virgin Islands in 1993. 6 foot 1, 210 pounds and without a car, he cycled everywhere, read Dave Scott’s training guide and on a whim entered the St Croix Triathlon finishing 18th. From that moment on he knew he was going to be a professional triathlete.
The following year saw him pick up the rookie of the year award and was ranked No. 6 in the world. He’s since gone on to win more than 30 professional triathlon events in 23 countries before founding Viv magazine, Eric Harr Social Media Inc and most recently Resonate Social Media, as well as forging a successful media career and being an ambassador for CARE.
EMT caught up with Eric to find out about his quest and see how his training’s going.
Hi Eric, why Ironman?
The Ironman in Hawaii is widely regarded as the world’s toughest one-day sporting test: a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a 26.2-mile marathon on a razor’s edge terrain in oppressive conditions. Preparing for, and doing, this event forces you to face your fears, doubts and excuses—and elevates you to the best version of yourself.
The event is visual and dramatic: the beauty of the island belies the brutality of the event. It seems a poignant and powerful way for me to honor those I am helping through this quest: the millions of marginalized women and girls who overcome impossible odds each day.
That's quite a target you've set yourself, why set the bar so high?
Because life is not a dress rehearsal. I’m serious about this point. This isn’t a do-over for any of us. Why set lukewarm goals?
Breaking 9 hours in Hawaii is a daunting challenge: Fewer than 50 people in the world did it at least year’s event. But, I believe setting, and striving for, goals that are outside your comfort zone inspire you to be a better human being – and they inspire those around you.
I come to this race with profound humility, on two fronts:
1. The Ironman in Hawaii has left world champions mentally and physically bankrupt, weeping on the side of the road. It is not to be under-estimated.
2. There are more impressive and inspiring stories than mine. Take John Blais and what he did for ALS. Or, Dick and Ricky Hoyt and what they did for cerebral palsy: I just returned from a three-week training camp in Hawaii and while there, I imagined being 50 years old (Dick Hoyt’s age) towing another human being in the swim, bike and run. Humbling.
Those are the real heroes. I am just one man doing what I can, coalescing my passions and talents in triathlons and social media into a synchronicity that I hope will help thousands and inspire millions.
Why does Care and what they do mean so much to you?
1. I resolutely believe that empowering marginalized women will unlock the greatest good our world has ever seen. CARE focuses its work in this area. Women are terribly marginalized worldwide. Of the world's 1.3 billion poor people, it is estimated that nearly 70 per cent are women. Of the world's nearly one billion illiterate adults,two-thirds are women. Women produce more than 55% of all food grown in developing countries yet own less than 1% of the land.
I became an ambassador for CARE in 2008. Shortly thereafter, I visited some remote villages in Mozambique to see CARE’s work first-hand. I was completely awe-struck with how CARE works. They focus on empowering communities, and in doing so, they create lasting change. While there, I met a woman named Albertina, who heads up a water project for her village outside of Maputo. When I left, she said: “Eric, please don’t forget about us. Don’t forget.” I will never forget her, and those people and that I want to do everything I can to help them.
2. I know the money will be expertly-allocated, and it will reach the people on the ground. CARE is one of the world's largest private international humanitarian organizations, committed to helping families in poor communities improve their lives and achieve lasting victories over poverty. Founded in 1945 to provide relief to survivors of World War II, CARE quickly became a trusted vehicle for the compassion and generosity of millions. CARE allocates an industry-leading 90% of funds to program activities. Knowing that fuels me with the motivation to do this…to be strong and brave on their behalf over the course of my training and on event day.
How's your training going?
I have never been stronger or faster in my life. It’s different now as a dad. My children give me an “in-your-bones” strength I never had before. I come to my training with a new wisdom, appreciation -- and mental toughness!
But, there are challenges: my first priority is my family: I love them with every fiber of my being. They are my world. I spend a huge amount of time with them. And, my social media agency is thriving, which takes time and effort. I am simply more efficient and focused in my training. I used to put in 45-hour training weeks (no kidding); now, I train 22-25 hours a week. It’s not how many hours you put in; it’s what you put into those hours.
And, truth be told: the more I train for this event, the more daunting it seems. I did a 5-hour ride on the Queen K Highway and thought to myself: “Ok, I would need to get off the bike right now and run 26 sub 7-minute miles back-to-back in this 100-degree heat. The enormity of the challenge never diminishes; in fact, the more you train, the closer you get to it, the more the reality of this event comes crashing in on you. And you wonder if you should take up chess or curling or something.
Will this be your first Ironman and where do you plan to qualify?
I was a pro triathlete for 10 years (ranked #6 in the world in my first year). I did Ironman in Canada (18th overall) and Brazil (39th overall) and both were unmitigated disasters. I have an uneasy relationship with this distance.
I hope to qualify at the Rohto Ironman 70.3 on June 4th on the Big Island, some of it on the Ironman course. The swim is at Hapuna Beach, where my family and I have had many good times. Good vibes there, for sure. And, they’ll be with me on event day, so I’m liking my chances!
What splits have you given yourself on the day?
Anyone who knows this race knows that the best-laid plans can burn up like lava right on the Queen K Highway. But, barring any cataclysmic wind or heat, I’m looking at:
Run: Anything under 3 hours.
There’s a saying in golf: “Drive for show; put for dough.” The same can be said about the bike and run at Ironman. I am confident about the swim and the bike. The run is will be where it will all go down, so I will need all of those Tweets of support!
How can people get involved?
One: They can be true to the best they know. That sounds trite, but it’s true. Pick a cause that makes your blood boil and your heart ache, enter an event that challenges you (whether it’s a 5k, a bike race or a triathlon) and raise money for that cause. It will infuse you with passion. Good for your body, good for our world!
Two: On October 8th, they can follow our live cast on Twitter, using hashtag #careironman. We will be providing live in-race coverage of my event. I am attempting to raise the full $ 1million for CARE during the 8 hours and 58 minutes it takes me to do this event. People can donate instantly via Twitpay; or they can simply retweet messages and expand awareness for @CARE. I will be getting people’s Tweets live during the event. So, for example: if I start walking, someone can Tweet: “I will donate $50 to CARE if he starts running again!” That is unprecedented: bringing the world to an athlete during an event.
Last, I would love it if people would follow @careironman. They can get inside updates on how I’m training to break the 9-hour barrier, as well as training and exercise tips and news about CARE’s work from an ambassador's perspective.
Anything else you would like add.
I’d like to thank EverymanTri for the support of this worthy campaign.
I suppose parting comments would be:
Social media can unleash a world of social good. It is word-of-mouth spreading orders-of-magnitude faster than ever. Ultimately, I hope my quest brings attention to CARE’s breathtaking and important work. I hope it inspires people to be true to the best they know. And, I hope it brings the world together around a common cause of better health and a better world.