matt wulff tri 4 schools

Athlete of the Year Update: Matt’s Story

A lot has happened in the last three months. Anyone who has ever dealt with a sports-related injury will want to read this. Matt needs our support now more than ever.

The Smartest Man in the Room

I once saw a quote that read, “if you’re the smartest man in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” I really like that quote, because if you’ve ever been in a room with more than one man, you can understand it instantly. If I have to explain it to you, you’re in the wrong room. I like to think I switch rooms a lot, which either makes me self aware or just not the smartest man in any room.

The big issue for me, though, is that sometimes, even when I’m the only person in the room, I’m not the smartest person in the room.

Allow me to illustrate. Imagine I’m sitting alone in a room in the dark of winter 2017. I get up to walk out of this room and experience shooting pain in my right knee. There are now two paths that I can take. One is to call a doctor and schedule an appointment to see if there’s anything wrong with my knee. The other is to ignore the pain and convince myself that pain is part of the process of training for an Ironman and that everyone is in pain after a workout.

Now, imagine me repeating that scenario, oh, say 100 times from December through May. Alone. In a room. Not the smartest man there.

The Diagnosis

I ignored my knee pain until my family met its out-of-pocket health insurance maximum for the year. (In April because it’s best to just get it out of the way early). Once that was met, I figured a trip to the doctor would be “free” and I like free things. So, I went to see my doctor. Then I went to see a PT. Then I went to the sports medicine doc. Then I had an MRI. Then I found out I’ve been working with a torn meniscus for several months.  

matt wulff tri 4 schools

It’s not a big injury and it’s easy to fix (knee scope on Aug 13), but it means I’ll have a long break from running this summer. The two phrases “I’m on a break from running” and “I’m training for an Ironman” can’t really co-exist. At least not for me. I have deferred my entry into this year’s race and will race in 2019. In fact, I may not do any triathlons this year. Jackson will likely be the triathlete in our household this year thanks to Tri 4 Schools.  

matt wulff tri 4 schools

This leaves me in an odd position. I’m the athlete of the year for Tri 4 Schools, but I’m not working towards a big athletic achievement anymore. I actually thought for a moment I might get fired. Can you get fired from a charity you’re raising money for??? Don’t answer that.

After coming to grips with this major change of plans for my 2018 season, I came up with an idea. Something I could do for the second half of 2018 that would be significantly harder for me than an Ironman.

The Fourth Discipline

I’ve decided to focus on the fourth discipline of triathlon. No, not improving my transition times. I don’t think spending 6 months on transitions would be a wise investment. Besides, that’s really the fifth discipline. The fourth discipline is of course, nutrition.

Normally, this refers to nutrition while you’re on course racing. That is important. More important though, is the nutrition plan that gets you through months of training. Your daily nutrition plan.

So, I’m going to focus on an issue that has plagued me my entire life and that interferes with my goals. Food. I am addicted to food. I use food to self-sooth. I used food as a reward. I obsess about food.

Food has been my “friend” for a long time. It’s like the friend that pressured you to smoke. The friend that made you to take one more shot on your birthday. The friend that talks shit behind your back. The friend that tries to borrow your swimsuit. (No, our boys should not share the same space.)

In other words, food has not been a good friend. I’ve never looked at food as a means to fuel my body. I’ve always looked at it as a reward, but the problem is that an apple or salad is never the reward. The reward is junk food that gives me a nice little shot of dopamine in the reward center of my brain. This “reward” is short lived and causes me to want more junk food. It’s a vicious cycle, but not something new for me. I’ve been aware of it since my early teens.

The good news is that not all foods are bad. It’s really a handful of foods that are trigger foods for me. These include chocolate, potato chips, french fries, Chipotle tortilla chips, cookies, brownies and Dr. Pepper. These all taste great, but don’t do my body any favors when it comes to losing weight and they really don’t help me feel fueled to train.

A New Goal

So, starting July 1, I am no longer to touch those trigger foods. Well, let me rephrase that a little. I am going to do my absolute best to avoid those trigger foods. Saying “never” is a dangerous thing as it sets me up for failure. As I want to succeed, my aim is to be on point 90% of the time and leave a little margin for error.  I need to set myself up for success, not failure. Special thanks to my wife for reminding me of that.

My goal is to change my relationship with food and change my body in the process. I’ve got a nutrition plan in place. I’m working on pulling together a list of recipes. I’ve measured my body composition and learned my resting metabolic rate. I have a “before” picture (which I won’t be sharing yet). I have all the data I need.

Now, I need to focus on having the discipline and determination of an Ironman.

Support Matt’s Journey HERE

The Wulff Pack – May/June  2018

People who are having a big impact on my goals for 2018 and who became honorary members of the Wulff Pack.

Rachel Mensch – one of my Madison Multisport teammates who is currently dominating the Wisconsin Tri Series.

Cindi Bannink – My coach who has been very patient and supportive as I’ve tried to figure out how to work through an injury and myriad associated mental issues.

Matt Boardman – one of my Madison Multisport teammates who connected me with a great orthopedic surgeon.

matt wulff tri 4 schools