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The Triumph Project

In just under three months Jeff Fairbanks is about to embark on a journey that I can't even begin to wrap my head around; 21 days of 70.3 triathlons which take him from Maine to Florida. The most amazing part is that he's not doing it for money or for glory, but instead he's embarking on this journey to test his own limits and hopefully inspire others to do the same. I've known Jeff since high school and I have been luckily enough to follow his transformation via Facebook over the past few years and I was so intrigued by his story that I asked if he would be wiling to be interviewed for the blog. Luckily for us he said yes! Going into the interview I was dying to know how a person who has no experience doing triathlons OR making movies ends up doing both and doing each in such an impressive way. I came out of this feeling incredibly inspired and I hope you all will feel the same! Below you can read my interview with Jeff and see the trailer for his upcoming documentary. Xx

Tell me a little about The Triumph Project and what got you interested in triathlons? 

The Triumph Project is a documentary aimed at capturing the community voices of “why we tri”- My journey, which will consist of 21 days of 70.3 efforts (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run) is merely the bridge to connect to the community voice. 

I’ll be traveling along the East Coast, beginning July 27, 2016 to 21 different cities, taking on a 70.3 effort in each one. The community is invited to join me along any of the stop locations, for any of the efforts (swimming, biking or running) or just to spectate and support my efforts!!

The project was born from watching a documentary on Tiny Houses, called “tiny” which provided just enough inspiration to drive me to want to create a movie project, of which I knew nothing about. No movie experience to speak of, no idea on how to accomplish such an idea, and being relatively new to the sport of triathlon I knew it was going to be an uphill battle but this was something that I knew I needed to do. 

I know you have two little ones at home and a full time job, how are you able to fit all the training in? I feel a small victory if I make it to the gym 4 times a week! 

It’s hard, without question. But it also shows you how much more you can actually do (definitely more than I thought I could). My training generally entails a lot of late nights and early mornings. I try to make the sacrifice impact me, above the family, as much as I can. So many times my wife and kiddos are crashed out and I’m riding from 10-12 at night, or I’m up at 4:30 in the morning. A lot of the time I’m able to integrate them in certain aspects of this sport which has been a huge plus, and something I’ve never experienced in my other activities. I primarily train my biking on an indoor trainer and the family doesn’t mind me spinning while watching their shows. Also, when I run, I’m often pushing around the jogging stroller with one of the kiddos. My theory is integration, not isolation, to make it work!

What do you hope that people get out of the movie? 

The main theme that I want people to relate to is to doubt their own self-doubt. I’d love to see more people in the triathlon scene but the reality is we all have our own self perceived limits. I want people to see the average joe family guy (me) juggling all of these things and still pushing forward. I want them to find some relatability within the community stories of why this sport and how it has changed their lives/lifestyle. I hope that by seeing this someone can sit down and retain a glimmer of doubt to their own self limitations. Maybe that’s getting up off the couch and walking the neighborhood. Maybe that’s pushing through something like a 5K that someone never thought they could do. Whatever it is, I want others to discover the feeling of accomplishing a task (no matter how big or small) that they felt was out of reach.

Going back two years I would have told you that I could never do a triathlon. I never swam laps, never cycled on the road, and despised running, yet here I am taking on 21 days of 70.3’s. To me, there is triumph within us all and it’s just a matter of choice as to how we discover it. I want raise awareness of mind control. The mind and the body are incredible things, and they can do greatly powerful things, and also sometimes terrible things (like telling you, you can’t do something), but nevertheless that’s a powerful thing.  

I want people to see my efforts, and feel inspiration and hopefully take that and look into their own lives for the “light” in things and push towards those. I say this to my kiddos a lot; there are people who only focus on the “dark” of things, and in doing so they may never be happy, but if we can focus our attention and find the “light” in things we can often times turn darkness into light. 

This is nothing more than a passion project for me and not a money thing. I don’t have financial backers and I don’t have a big corporate sponsorship. Not to say I would turn someone down who wanted to help me, but that just isn’t the purpose/intent. What I have is drive, a family behind me, and a focus to see it through. So at the end of all of this, if someone were to see the documentary and reach out to me about how it’s inspired them to do something they felt they couldn’t, I’d call that a win.

What is your diet like? Do you allow yourself splurges or does this go against your training? In other words, please help me and my terrible sweet tooth! 

I’ve been a weird eater for quite some time now. Nothing particularly towards one side (not vegan or dairy free etc.) but I do focus on watching salt intake. Not saying that salt is bad, but I’m just saying that I watch the sodium in products I ingest. You’d be surprised at what watching a sodium label will do, it starts to eliminate a lot of foods I used to eat all the time. Most most of the foods I eat are bland, and basically of no interest (most of the time) to my family!! I call it being “into health” and the kiddos always say, “Daddy’s into health, but not me!” I eat meats, limit bread intake, not many canned or boxed goods (mainly due to high salt) and eat a ton of fruit (love dried fruit), veggies and nuts/seeds. Sometimes I feel I could live on dried mangoes, persimmons, nut mixes and coconut!

I do have a sweet tooth as well, so I have to find stuff that I can accept as being sweet but get passed my personal thought of “being into health.” So for example, I love dates, particularly date shakes (bananas, dates, peanut butter, almond/coconut milk, cacao powder. I also have a habit of making frozen blueberries, honey yogurt, (mix it up in a bowel by hand) honey on top with cacoa powder/pea protein powder on top. 

Does your wife also do triathlons? Do you all train as a family? I'd love to know what your training schedule is like. 

My wife does not do triathlons, and pretty much feels that I exercise enough for the both of us! We do sometimes train together as a family, but that mainly comes from integration (cycling indoors while we all talk, jogging stroller efforts with the kiddos) instead of everyone actually putting out an effort alongside me. 

My training schedule right now is pretty heavy (in my humble opinion). I am not coached, and have a lot of other commitments (job, family life, house projects) so I’ve come up with my own personal training plan (at the request of my wife so she can know what to expect) on a four week rotation, that I slightly tweak for each new 4 week effort. I train 5 days a week, with a total combined training time of roughly 13-15 hours per week. This is what I’m doing to prepare myself to take on the 21 days of 70.3’s.

Each year I swear I am going to run the Boston Marathon and every year I find an excuse to sit it out. Basically I hate running. Do you have any suggestions on where to start for someone like me?

Running is actually difficult for me as well, and something I always struggled to “want” to put effort out on. For me, I think it’s important to set small goals that you can see yourself meeting, and then once you meet those, you continue to build. The motivating factor for me in this sport, is that you can see direct connections to your training efforts, nothing seems to ever “get easier” but you see yourself getting faster. You can see yourself doing things you thought you couldn’t do. For example, did I just really swim for an hour straight? Or did I just run ten miles when I could barely handle one before?

Once you start reaching your goals and building, it sort of becomes a process of within to not want to take backward steps from all the work you’ve put in. I think that component, helps support motivation to get out there and not “lose” the efforts you’ve already deposited into your endurance “bank”. I would suggest starting small, doing a couple mile stints at a time. I also advise putting your proposed efforts into an excel spreadsheet for a training schedule. These little things help solidify what you want to do and make it a little harder for you to excuse yourself out of them. A running buddy doesn’t hurt either, or get those kiddos in the jogging stroller!!!

Are there days when you just can't Imagine Training? How do you stay motivated?

There are a lot of times that it gets hard to put in the training time. Especially when the kiddos don’t sleep well at night, or I’m just flat out tired from the efforts the day before. For me, the fact that I’ve put this journey out there, I don’t want to let anyone down, so that motivates me a ton. I also get a lot of inspiration from the people on Instagram within the various endurance communities. I see all these people doing great things, and it motivates me to want to make them proud. 

I also want me kiddos to see me take on something bigger than me. Other than my dad role. I want them to see the interaction with the community, and the fact that their dad is going to aim for something high and work his way towards it. I want them to believe in big things and see the hard work it takes to make things realize. Essentially, I want to walk the walk for all the times I talk the talk to them about believing and striving for more!!

I know you also flip houses? As a decorator this is my dream! Tell me a little about how you got started? Is it difficult designing a house that you know will eventually be for someone else? Can you put your own personality into it or do you really have to design with the goal of not offending a buyer?

Flipping houses has definitely been one of our unintentional side gigs. My wife is a designer, and I’ve come from a history of construction experience so it melds very well. She can generally design out an idea, and more often than not I can build it. We’ve completed 4 flip projects and they are a lot of work. We primarily do most of the work ourselves, and living in a project like that is way different than just doing a project and being able to go home to your organized space.

It all began about 10 years back when we met. We were in Seattle, WA and after dating for a bit we decided we were moving to FL where we ended up purchasing a little house near the beach. It was small, old and needed a lot of work. My wife had done work for builders and had her own side business before we met, so she applied her skills and we ended up tearing nearly everything out of that house and rebuilding it. From there, we’ve slowly replicated that flip process over the years. We’ve often talked about how we should have filmed our first flip nearly 10 years ago as there were so many good stories to share with people!! 

There is definitely a challenge to designing the space for market, versus personality. We learned a lot in our first project in FL where we went far too personal and decked it out how we’d like it. Over time we’ve come to realize that it’s better to add flairs of personality to the overall market scheme. That way there is a component of “you” which enables you to sort of endure the process (since we live in the flips as we do them) as you’re going through it.

There’s a lot of research that goes into the neighborhood/city market that you’re looking flip in. When you see a place that has good bones but lacks esthetics, and the esthetic needs won’t push the house outside of market area value, those are the gems. But getting the house with minor detail needs, and overspending on a personalized budget often times is most conducive to personal residences that someone has no intention of ever leaving.The market can be harsh, and sometimes it seems to hit us harder sometimes when you know you’ve personally put in a lot of effort into something that doesn’t transcend into an interested buyer. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll have a show about flipping, family style! (side note: I'd love to see that!!!)

Is there Anything else you'd like to share?

I’d love to have company out there during my 21 days! My biggest fear is traveling through all of those various miles alone. I’d also love to hear from people who may feel they have an interesting story to tell about triathlon and how it’s changed their life. Who knows, maybe it will be featured in the documentary! If anyone has any interest, or ideas in supporting my journey from spectating, to helping planning routes, or organizing anything, I’m always looking for extra hands. Feel free to reach out to me on Facebook, Instagram or via email info@thetriumphproject.org

Thank you Jeff! I am so excited to follow your tour this summer and wish you the best of luck! For those of you who would like to join Jeff, you can find his tour schedule here

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