Athlete News

Athletic Mentors’ Alumnus Stefan Noesen Scores First NHL Goal for Ducks

December 8th, 2016 by Athletic Mentors
Athletic Mentor Hockey Camp Alumnus Stefan Noeson scores his first NHL goal for the Annaheim Ducks

Athletic Mentor Alumnus Scores First NHL Goal 3 Games Into Career with Anaheim Ducks. Image and screen shot of headline from

Congratulations  to Athletic Mentors’ mentoree and alumnus Stephan Noesen who did us proud last night scoring his first NHL goal for the Anaheim Ducks.

“Stefan has been an outstanding member of Athletic Mentors’ Hockey Camp and has worked hard to build his strength, speed, and agility after injuries. His unstoppable nature made this moment a triumph over past tribulations,” AM Coach Mark Olson said. “We’re ecstatic for him!”

According to a press release published by the Anaheim Ducks, Noesen buried a one-timer from the slot in the second period of Anaheim’s eventual 6-5 shootout victory over the visiting Hurricanes, raising both fists to the rafters and breaking out in a beaming ear-to-ear grin. Wednesday night was just his third NHL game with the Ducks.

“I saw the red light and threw my hands up,” said the 23-year-old winger. “It was all the emotion from two long years coming at me all at once.”

Watch Stefan’s First NHL Goal

According to a story by Adam Brady for the, those two years were more than any athlete should be asked to endure. Noesen  battled through not one, but two devastating injuries that each kept him off the ice for extended periods of time. First was the torn ACL, MCL and meniscus suffered soon after being acquired by the Ducks in 2013, and a year later there was the partially torn Achilles that put him on the shelf for most of the 2014-15 campaign.

Brady wrote that in an odd way, Noesen had an impact on the Ducks franchise even before he was acquired by Anaheim. Ducks GM Bob Murray has acknowledged that Anaheim wanted to take Noesen with the 22nd selection of the 2011 NHL Draft, but the Senators snatched him up one pick prior. The Ducks quickly swung a deal with Toronto to send that 22nd pick to the Leafs for the 30th and 39th, which became franchise cornerstones Rickard Rakell and John Gibson.

Two years later the Ducks got Noesen anyway, dealing Bobby Ryan to Ottawa for Jakob Silfverberg, Noesen and a 2014 first round draft pick they used to select Nick Ritchie.

Read the full story of Noesen’s triumph here:

How Much Protein Do Endurance Athletes Need?

April 29th, 2016 by Athletic Mentors

Protein supplementation is big business today, with mass food producers jumping on the bandwagon, but how much protein do endurance athletes really need? This is one area about which Athletic Mentors’ clients routinely ask when in training. One thing that folks often forget is that whatever the source, protein = calories, so there’s a trade-off when training.

According to one Vanderbilt University study, endurance athletes do use protein as a source of 5%-10% of total energy expended due to the duration of their training sessions. This protein needs to be replaced as well as protein that is used for tissue repair, thus an elevated level of intake can be beneficial. However, a point exists at which any more protein taken in is no longer beneficial, and exceeding that point means unnecessary calories.

In her book, “Sports Nutrition Guidebook,” author Nancy Clark points out that many athletes eat more protein than they require just through standard meals. That is, a 150-pound recreational athlete who burns 3,000 calories can easily consume 300 – 450 protein calories. This equates to 0.5 to 0.7 grams of protein per pound, which is more than the RDA of 0.4 grams per pound.

Meanwhile, research shows that protein intake exceeding 0.9 gram per pound would offer no further benefit. Clark suggests that adult enduarance athletes aim for an intake of 0.6 – 0.7 gram per pound of body weight.

So, if you’re a 140-pound bike racer, you’d need to consume between 85 – 98 g protein each day.

Low Cal, High Protein Food Choices

In terms of food that have high-protein-to-calorie ratios, leaders include egg whites at 20 grams per 6 egg whites (100 calories); chicken breast at 18 grams per 2 ounces, tuna at 20 grams per 3 oz, haddock at 21 grams per 3 0z and cottage cheese at 15 grams per 1/2 cup. For vegetarians, extra firm tofu nets 12 grams per 4 oz, and Boca burgers net 13 grams per 2.5 oz.

For more information: Check out Nancy Clark’s Book or contact us to schedule a nutritional counseling session with us today!

Anatomy of Success: Rising Hockey Star Alex Cannon

April 4th, 2016 by Athletic Mentors

IMG_7920-1What does it take to elevate your game? Ask Alex Cannon, who has had a burning desire since age 8 to play on a Detroit team.

Today, it’s safe to say that the Captain of the Plymouth Compuware’s UA15 team who has recently been asked to commit to the elite Oakland Junior Grizzlies U16 AAA team has reached his goal in a big way. Getting there took inspiration, perspiration, and great year-round coaching.

“It doesn’t surprise me in the least that Al has been called up to the Oakland U16 AAA team,” said coach Mark Olson. “That kid has drive, perseverance, and talent to burn. But most importantly, he’s always ready to do the work.”

Cannon began training with Coach Olson in the Athletic Mentors hockey program in 2011 at age 11, where he began sports-specific, age-specific training. His family called summer hockey camp the first “turning point” in his development.

“Al began to learn and understand the importance of training and nutrition in order to get better at hockey and take it to the next level. Because he was and still is so focused and driven, he took all of this and began to apply it to his everyday life,” said Lu Cannon.

For Al, the next few summers at Athletic Mentors summer hockey school gave him an opportunity to work out, stick handle and be on the ice with older kids, junior players and some pros. This pushed him even more to adopt winning practices and rise to the level of advanced play.

One pivotal moment for Al came after an on-ice training session with Eddie Ward. Ward sat all of the kids down and in essence said, “You have to stand out. If your parents have to ask you to stick handle and train you might as well not try to play at a high level. You have to want it and be self-motivated. If you are in a group of kids, you better do something out there that makes you get noticed by the coaches. It’s important to continue to workout all year long and stick handle. This will set you apart from the rest.” Al took those words to heart.

In 2013, he began to workout with Coach Olson all year long. For the first year he was the only one his age working out several times a week after school. He continued to ask to play in Detroit. Coaches Olson, Ward and his parents told him to be patient.

When Al became a Bantam that was the year they were allowed to check. The first game of the season, Al came on the ice with confidence ready to go. His first check was on a player probably 30 pounds heavier. The guy was not expecting it from him and the players, crowd and coaches sat there stunned. From that point forward, that is how Al has played: with ice vision, speed, confidence, strength, leadership and a strong team presence.

“Timing and patience is everything. The support, guidance, and development that Mark Olson, Eddie Ward and Athletic Mentors along with Al’s determination and hard work have opened doors,” said Lu Cannon.

Athletic Mentor’s Hockey Division has now opened Registration for its popular summer dryland training, On-Ice skills and Power Skating programs. For details, visit our partners at

Fall Coaching Special

October 30th, 2015 by Katie Whidden USAT certified coach

Purchase 3 months of coaching before December 31st, 2012 and get your 4th month free.

Transition: The 4th Discipline of Triathlon

June 11th, 2015 by Athletic Mentors

By Roxane Kippen, Team OAM Now Triathlete

Hold on a minute, isn’t triathlon just three disciplines? Yes swim, bike and run take up the majority of the race, but there are these precious seconds, or for some, minutes where you have to wiggle out of your wetsuit and put on a bike helmet (T1) and change from bike shoes to run shoes (T2). While time spent in the transition area may not be long, how wisely you use that time could be the difference between being on the podium or wishing you were.

With triathlon, there are usually a few “I could have been faster if I had only: sighted better in the swim so I wasn’t weaving all over the course, or not pushed so hard on the bike so I had solid legs to run on, or pushed harder on the run so I didn’t get caught in the last 100 meters.” What people might not realize is a good transition time can often make up for small mistakes elsewhere.

I’m not the fastest swimmer in the field, but I hold my own. However, my T1 transition is quick and efficient and usually sets me in great position heading out on the bike. In fact, I can generally make up anywhere from 15 to 30 second deficit from a slower swim with a fast T1 time. My transition times are always among the fastest in the women’s field and I actually posted the fastest T1 and T2 times out of both men and women at a race last summer.

Is transition a special talent I possess? Does a fast transition matter? Transition is a skill, just like swimming, and it can be practiced and improved. Transition does matter, as I have seen many a podium spot slip out from under athletes, because they did not prepare well for their entire race. When races are decided by less than 30 second gaps, you’d better believe 30 extra seconds in transition can cost you a win. So how do you get good at it? Like any other discipline in triathlon, you need to practice. Below are some rules and tips for how to shave seconds and maybe minutes off your next race.

rule 1 TransitionRule #1 – BE ORGANIZED
Organization is critical to a fast transition. You don’t get a lot of room in transition. Typically, one rack will have 8 bikes, so you need to be organized and keep only what you need in the transition area. Do not leave your duffle bag or backpack in the transition area. It will get in your way and it will get in the way of other racers by creating a road block when trying to un-rack and re-rack your bike.


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Athletic Mentors Trainee Sets PR in Boston Marathon to Remember Mentor

May 7th, 2015 by Athletic Mentors

AmyatBostonWhen Amy Bross crossed the finish line at the Boston Marathon amidst the frigid rain and high winds in personal-record time (3:29) April 20, she was not alone.

She had an angel drafting her.

The 37-year-old triathlete who trains with Athletic Mentors and represents Team Stellafly decided to run the Boston Marathon to keep a promise she made to honor her mentor and friend, Jim Kelley, who was killed while running in November of 2013.

“The reason I was in Boston was because of Jim. I crossed the finish line and I was walking back to Athlete’s Village, freezing cold, and I was all choked up because I would not have been there had it not been for him. The frozen hands, beat up legs, purple lips, and soaking wet feet didn’t matter at that point. He believed so much in me and in my potential. All he wanted was to see me run Boston. And I had just run Boston,” Bross said.


Amy with running mate and mentor Jim Kelley.

It was a beautiful finish to a running legacy that started with Bross’s father, burgeoned with Kelley’s inspiration as a running partner, and flourished under the high-science HRT training and nutrition plan of Mark Olson at Athletic Mentors.

“Boston was definitely tough!  It’s a very difficult course and while you have to be physically strong, it can mentally break you too…the hills hit hard and you’re tired…but the fans and the spectators were just incredible – even in the pouring rain,” Bross said.

Bross’s father, Ron, turned her on to running when she was a freshman at Grand Valley State University in 1996. The father-daughter duo ran together through 5ks, 10ks, half-marathons, and finally their first marathon together – Chicago Marathon in 2000.

After knee surgery six years ago, Bross thought her distance running days were over. During recovery, she got hooked on triathlons while cross training and in ensuing years made several trips to the podium. Not to be outdone, her father joins her in local triathlon events despite breaking his back last year in an accident.


Amy with her Dad

Amy with her Dad

It’s fair to say there’s an unstoppable gene in the family. Bross Sr., in his late 60s, recently competed in Florida’s St. Anthony triathlon.

“They say I’m clearly my father’s daughter,” Bross says. “We both work very hard with training and put our entire hearts into everything we do, and it’s so inspirational to see my dad pushing through it…he just won’t quit! I’m always so proud of him just as much as I know he is so proud of me.”

Amy spent a year training speed and tempo work with Kelley, and he paced her through a 10k PR as well as a half-marathon PR. Just before Kelley died, he’d texted her after a race he had just finished, telling her she needed to run Boston with him. She had said no, she was finished with marathons, and only wanted to race triathlons.

Ron Bross-FLA

Ron Bross at Florida’s St. Anthony Triathlon

After Kelley’s tragic death that rocked the local athletic community, Bross changed her mind. She would run Boston after all, to memorialize all he’d given her. After she ran a tough Boston qualifier race, she knew that as a “Type A” personality, she’d need some training in order to avoid over-training while she continued to focus on triathlons.

Enter Mark Olson, wielder of a data-based coaching regime that included slowing down in order to very precisely meter her energy use, reserves, and capacity for recovery.

 “I’ve improved significantly as an athlete and the difference has been heart rate training with Mark. It’s made a huge difference for me. He keeps me locked in my ‘zones’ and ‘benches me’ — as I like to refer to it — when he knows that I need a break,” Bross said.

AmyBoston2A fully admitted “pace junkie,” Olson’s challenge was to slow Bross down to stay in her ‘zones’  so that she was able to improve her aerobic capacity, by throwing ‘pace’ out the window. The result, says Bross, was a vastly increased capacity to sustain a pace for a longer period of time. The pair are still working together to capitalize on this kind of improved endurance for triathlons.

A second training phenom Bross credits with making all the difference in distance is nutrition.

“What I learned from Mark is that nutrition planning is a huge factor that will make or break my performance. The scientific data we have on me is down the exact point at which my body stops burning off fat for fuel and switches over to carbs, which is when I need to take the nutrition — even if I don’t want it or feel like I need it. I have struggled with nutrition issues for a long time and it’s really affected me, but Mark has made it a priority to fix it,” Bross said.

The result of her rigorous adherence to his race nutrition planning was not only endurance during the marathon, but fast recovery thereafter even in her hard training sessions that he gives her.

“I couldn’t have done this without him. He had a plan laid out for me and told me to go execute it ‘as is,’ because he knew that I could. He reminds me when I struggle to believe in myself, to just trust him…and so I do, and that trust has never failed me,” Bross said.

The real joy for her isn’t the competition, despite her tendency to be a competitive athlete. It’s the sense of community shared among runners and triathletes.

“I have never met a more selfless group of people than runners and triathletes,” Bross said, recalling a time when she blew a tire in a Ludington triathlon and several people were willing to throw their race to help her, or the numerous times Kelley and others gave up their own races to pace her through tough runs and races.

“The sense of community, support and camaraderie found in both running and triathlons is incredible. It’s said in Boston “We Run Together” — and that is exactly how it felt and how it should feel.””

Now that Boston’s behind her, Bross will be training for the local summer triathlon circuit, with her focus on the Ironman 70.3 Miami — which will be her “A” race, among other endurance feats including an Olympic distance race in Iowa. Bross represents Team Stellafly, a multi-sport team focusing on health, community and inclusivity. The team consists of a diverse range of athletic abilities including professional and elite athletes, ultra runners, cyclists, swimmers, as well as media professionals. Athletic Mentors is a sponsor of Team Stellafly.


Athletic Mentors Hockey Camp Coach Suits Up As NHL Duck

April 13th, 2015 by Athletic Mentors

noesenDL040815You might find Athletic Mentors hockey camp alumni Stefan Noesen suited up for the Anaheim Ducks this spring, or wearing an Athletic Mentors Coaching Jersey, depending on the day. It’s been a long strange trip from Plano, Texas to the NHL, but for unstoppable two-way right-winger with the “high hockey IQ,” the ride is worth the fare.

Noesen was called up from the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals to log ice time in the bigs with the Anaheim Ducks earlier this month.

“I definitely had a little bit of jitters in the beginning,” said the 22-year-old.

“As the game went on, it starts to be hockey and those feelings go away. It was a dream come true.”

Noesen’s NHL agent, Eddie Ward, predicts his April debut won’t be his last time in suit, and credits Athletic Mentor’s Pro Hockey Camp with Noeson’s ongoing development and steady progress toward the top of his game.

“Training with coach Mark Olson has given Stefan the edge to up his game and get the call,” said Ward. “He has made outstanding gains in terms of strength and conditioning in the two years he’s trained with Athletic Mentors. The program’s pro-style focus on speed, strength, skills and diet is unparalleled,” Ward said.

Noesen, at 6’2” and 205 lbs, was a first-round draft pick in 2011 for the Ottawa Senators and remains in the NHL’s top 35 prospects in central scouting rank. His proving ground in the OHL and AHL was protracted when he was sidelined by injuries, including a torn ACL that had him sit out the 2013 season, and an Achilles tendon injury last fall. But Noesen has battled back to top form, a feat Ward calls “inspiring.”

“It’s been amazing what he’s gone through. I’m really proud of Stef. There are two ways a story like this can go. Instead of sitting around feeling sorry for himself, Stef’s continued to get himself in phenomenal shape, trained really hard in the summer, had a great training camp…It is just amazing how he’s persevered,” said Ward.

Ward is teaming up with coach Olson this summer to unveil the Athletic Mentor’s On-Ice Ultimate Skills & Conditioning program. Noesen is joining the team as an assistant coach, a role for which Ward says he was made.

“Stefan pays attention to detail and knows all about focusing on the little things to ratchet up his play. I think our young athletes will really benefit from his experience and his incredible attitude. He’s a smart, competitive player with a high-energy, two-way game.”

The team’s excited to provide something different that hasn’t been available to serious players who want to get to the next level.

“This is a camp that’s going to be focused on attention to details; a high-end program that’s really going to push the athletes. In other words: not your typical camp,” Ward said.

As an agent, he feels serious pro contenders need to train year-round to remain competitive players. Increasingly, those who make the pro circuit are one-sport athletes from an early age and are committed to hard work at strong summer programs.

But quantity does not beat quality, he warns.

Even those players who’ve trained year-round from an early age — like Noesen — can use a boost with elite strength and conditioning training and the kind of on-ice skills best mentored by those who’ve played pro or at elite levels.

Noesen is the product of early Dryland training as a former 10-year member of Dallas’s Ice Jets hockey program, where he helped lead his team to a U-12 Tier 1 national championship.

Dryland training has historically been an innovative approach to training all aspects of an athlete, from nutritional counseling to explosive power through strength conditioning. A handful of programs across the US have been pioneers, Athletic Mentors among them.

Noesen, the son of two college basketball athletes, fell in love with hockey at the age of 3 when his grandfather taught him the “motions” of ice skating in the living room. Since then, he’s been driven for ice time.

Despite the hot, humid climate in Dallas, Noesen trained year-round since he was 8 years old. He moved to Northville, Michigan to spend two seasons in the Compuware Under-16 Team, winning a national championship in 2009. After his first-round draft selection, he played with the OHL Plymouth Whalers until traded to Anaheim.

His advice for young athletes who want to make the play to go pro is “don’t stop believing – or improving!”

“Every game I push myself to be better and better, and the more I push myself, the higher I go in the standings,” Noesen said. “Play big and train hard.”

Athletic Mentors’ Soccer Stars Kick It Up at College

February 6th, 2015 by Athletic Mentors

Maggie Harma goalkeeping for the Wayne State College Wildcats.

It’s no secret that high-level training, proper conditioning, and resilience will contribute to the creation of an above-average athlete. Three local soccer players made that commitment years ago when they began training with Athletic Mentors. Besides having strong dedication to their sport in common, Maggie Harma, Carley Rice, and Kendra Sosnoski are all Gull Lake High School graduates and now collegiate athletes. Kudos to our trio of alumni!

In the first of this inspiring series, allow us to introduce you to Maggie Harma.

Up Close and Personal with Maggie Harma

Harma began her career as a goalkeeper at 10–years-old and joined AM her sophomore year of high school. Her career at Gull Lake High School was comprised of 53 shutouts, a 93.7 save percentage, and two MHSAA state titles. Harma was confident that she wanted to play soccer in college, so she took every opportunity possible to improve at AM.

“My coaches at school kept me technically skilled, but once I started training with Athletic Mentors, I feel like I became a better, stronger, faster player,” she said. Having already learned collegiate lifts and participating in conditioning routines, Harma was ahead of most freshman and physically ready to take on Division II athletics.

Harma spent her freshman season at Wayne State College in Wayne, Nebraska, studying a pre-professional degree. Her transition was one of the most extreme.

“The transition from high school to college, especially with athletics is insane,” she said. “You have to be 100 percent dedicated and in love with your sport, or you will grow to resent it.”

In addition, Harma said that as a student-athlete who’s pushing their limits, she learned a lot about herself fairly quickly. “You realize what you can do – managing a difficult school schedule, attending practices and conditioning, and balancing meets and a social life,” she said.

As she recalls her first season, Harma is elated to have contributed to the Wildcat soccer squad. She had the honor of starting most games as their goalkeeper and because the program is being rebuilt, helped the team drastically improve their statistics by cutting the goals scored on them in half, doubling the amount of shots and doubling the amount of scored goals.

“It was really good for me to get to play as a freshman. I was able to work out the kinks of the system and adjust to the game,” she said.

Her first year at WSC has still been trying, though. Being far away from her family and friends left her feeling mentally weak and not as fully committed. She half-wanted to be in Michigan, and half-wanted to be at WSC. The greatest thing she has learned can be used as advice for all college-bound athletes:

“It’s so much easier said than done, but jump in with two feet. You have to completely submerge yourself,” Harma said. “In order to be successful, you have to fully understand that this is the next chapter of your life, and embrace where you’re going.”

In order to full commit herself to school and soccer, Harma has made the decision to transfer to a school closer to home. Although this isn’t the answer for everyone, she feels that her performance and dedication will increase immensely at a location that’s more of a fit. She plans to condition hard through the summer and hopes to earn a starting spot on the squad of her next team. Look for Harma next fall at a college or university much closer to you!


Kudos to AM’s Hockey Athlete for WCHA Offensive Player of the Week

October 7th, 2014 by Athletic Mentors

Screen shot 2014-10-07 at 7.01.21 PMHat’s off to our own hockey program alumni, Chad McDonald, who’s now a Sophomore Forward with Ferris State University. Chad was nominated as the WCHA Offensive Player of the Week this week. He had two goals, a team-high five total shots and a +1 rating during ninth-ranked Ferris State’s season-opening, 4-3 win over #8 Michigan before a sellout crowd at the Ewigleben Ice Arena. The sophomore from Battle Creek, Mich. scored the game-winner with a short-handed tally in the second period. His opening goal came just 1:03 into the contest as the Bulldogs jumped out to a quick, 2-0 lead. Way to do us proud, Chad!

Read more standings, schedules or watch live games at the WCHA site.

Do you know someone who aspires to this level of play? Check out our Hockey Camps & Clinics and train like a pro!

Inspiring “Ironman” Joe Cekola Proves Attitude is Everything in Wisconsin

October 2nd, 2014 by Athletic Mentors

Joe Cekola credits his trials in life for his unstoppable performance in the face of adversity. The 52-year-old transformed from a casual runner into a competitive ‘Ironman’ despite what some would call a lifelong handicap and a broken Joe Cekola IM Wiscclavicle from a crash just eight weeks prior to Ironman Wisconscin.

Joe learned the importance of his father’s advice the hard way. At 7 years old, he lost his left hand grinding sausage at a family pizza joint. His dad told him to use the safety plunger, but in his youthful impatience, Joe decided he didn’t need any safety equipment.

While some would call it a handicap, having one hand is simply a shadow in Joe’s life. It’s not an obstacle, it just is. His mishap shaped his life attitude and instilled a do-it-all drive that might not be present if it weren’t for his childhood disobedience.

Joe credits his grandfather, who lost his arm in a factory, for influencing his positive outlook growing up. Because he had experienced something similar to Joe’s injury, he paid special attention to him and often shared his favorite line: “If they can do it, you can do it better. Don’t ever forget that.” Joe relentlessly followed his grandfather’s strong will.

“I’ve never forgotten that,” said Joe. “There’s been nothing that I can’t do. He made me do everything—I wasn’t given an option!”

He played basketball and football as a child and baseball in high school. In his young adulthood, he played in a recreation soccer league. Joe has tried most sports, but the one he hadn’t done much of was running.

Today, Joe has completed 11 marathons, an ultra, 2 triathlons, a half Ironman and an Ironman. You’d think he’d been training for years. In reality, Joe began his running journey a mere 5 years ago. He never ran seriously before 2009, but Joe had a short 3.2 mile race on his bucket list. With a little help from his friends, he completed the Borgess 5K run in his hometown, Kalamazoo. He continued to run with his training partners, and without much notice, his enjoyment of running began to grow. He progressed his running strength to marathon status and then ultra marathons until he realized that maybe he was putting too many miles on his feet.

“I was getting hurt running, so I bought a bike 1.5 years ago and decided to sign up for a small triathlon, just to see how I would do,” Joe said.

He found out he wasn’t a very good swimmer, but he enjoyed the biking aspect enough to keep training. Shortly after, he watched a friend do an Ironman in Wisconsin. Watching thousands of athletes attempt such a prestigious physical feat inspired him in a strange, oxymoronic way. The thought of completing an Ironman was intimidating yet exhilarating; Joe recollected his thoughts after committing to the idea and laughed, “I don’t even know what I’m doing, I don’t even know how to swim!”

After a near last place finish at his first triathlon and a competitive drive to get better and work toward that Ironman, he decided to join the Athletic Mentors team for a more professional training regimen.

Training at Athletic Mentors has helped Joe progress immensely, especially in the water. Swim coach Tom Belco doesn’t consider Joe’s missing hand a disadvantage. He expects Joe to train just as hard as everyone else, and serves as good mental and physical inspiration. With time, Joe penciled in a half Ironman 12 weeks before the big event: a full Ironman in Wisconsin on September 7, 2014, the same race his friend was in that inspired him.

At the Half Ironman, he was feeling great after his best swim time. But 8 miles out from the finish of the bike leg, he crashed and broke his collarbone (the same side as his missing hand, “thank God!”).

The support group at Athletic Mentors encouraged him to keep training. Between his coaches, his friends and his training partners, he pushed through the mental and physical setbacks.

“I was hesitant and thought I couldn’t do it, but they had confidence that I could come back,” said Joe.

Joe Cekola FinishFlash forward through eight weeks of training with a sling on the elliptical and in the pool, and four weeks of adjusting back to normal function. Joe was completing his first Ironman in personal record time.

Joe beat over 1,000 athletes, placing 1,636th out of 2,826. The experience was unlike anything that preceded it; 75,000 cheering fans lined the course and he had a support group of over 20 friends and family members. He swam his best time at that distance (1:39:58), had a good bike time despite the hills (7:05:59) and ran the full marathon (5:14:10) for a total time of 14:19:56.

The deep feeling of happiness and contentment is one of the greatest drives that motivates athletes like Joe. That, coupled with the strong friendships he’s developed from training, is what keeps him going. For others, Joe offers simple advice on achieving goals both big and small, the same principles he raised his three children with.

“Life is going to throw you some curve balls—accidents, crashes or losses—but never give up,” said Joe. “Just keep trekking forward one step at a time, and you can make whatever goal you want.”

Post Ironman, Joe is slowing down his training and taking a bit of recovery time. His goals for the future are unknown; he is simply reveling in accomplishing the goal he set for himself last year. “I haven’t another target yet, but I’m sure I will soon,” he said.

For now, he will join his friends in “shenanigans” and perhaps enjoy a few more beers than usual, awaiting to defeat the next challenge that is thrown his way.