Some people say sports build character; I would argue they reveal it. It was sports that helped me overcome a very difficult childhood and get me to where I am today.

Competing in various sports since childhood, my athletic career culminated by winning the Ironman New Zealand in 1991 and setting a new course record in 8 hours and 30 minutes. While my athletic career was cut short by a serious injury in 1994, the values I learned through sports shaped my life. The daily workout grind taught me early on the importance of adaptability, self-discipline, and how to push myself to be my best.

When I learned that Drew Hunthausen, a blind and partially deaf motivational speaker, wanted to complete the Herbalife24 Triathlon, I felt inspired and volunteered to be his guide. This was an opportunity to share my knowledge about Triathlon toward helping someone else achieve their goal.

The Value of Humility and Communication

I had no idea how to guide Drew through the race. Triathlons can present unprecedented obstacles throughout the course. A looming question was, “How do I make sure I get him safe and sound from start to finish?” I accepted I didn’t have all the answers, so I turned to Drew.

As Drew explained, since his first race in 2016, he has participated in more than 10 triathlons, several open water races and 100-mile bike rides – all while being accompanied by a guide. We both knew we had the physical strength to finish the race. What we had to really focus on was how to communicate.

Herbalife24 Triathlon
Dirk and Drew at the H24 Triathlon

We tend to judge situations even when we’ve never experienced them. It’s easy to make assumptions, rather than asking specific questions in an effort to clarify the situation. Knowing his safety was my responsibility reminded me to be patient and collaborative.

Instead of making assumptions, it was important for me and Drew to build a meaningful connection, so I asked specific questions and listened actively. By communicating and connecting at a deeper level, we made the most out of our weekly trainings until the big day.

Herbalife24 biking

Discovering a New Kind of Accomplishment

The day of the Herbalife24 Triathlon, Drew and I were ready to give our best as we set off to complete the swimming, biking, and running. Being able to support Drew gave me a feeling of accomplishment I haven’t felt in any other competition.

I was extremely touched by the impact Drew’s determination has on people. One older gentleman ran up to us during the second mile of the run and told Drew that he witnessed the moment we gave Drew a new bike in Venice Beach 2 weeks before the race. This inspired the man to enter his first triathlon!

Ultimately, Drew revived my triathlon passion. He shares one of my mantras: “If you aren’t going all the way, why go at all?” His determination and willpower encourages others to take on new challenges with a positive attitude, a gracious heart, and no excuses.

I felt a shift in my perspective – especially upon successfully finishing the race. I realized that the medal around my neck may collect dust, but my memories from racing alongside Drew will last forever.

Dirk Aschmoneit and Drew Hunthausen