Inspiration & Motivation, Running & Fitness

Sam Hitch: A Man on a Triathlon Mission

Matt Orlando
Follow Me

In June, Sam Hitch will attempt a triathlon across America, traveling from Yorktown, VA to San Francisco, CA in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for Longest Triathlon. The event itself is roughly 3,850 miles and will roughly consist of 104 miles swimming, 2986 miles biking, and 760 miles of running, which is consistent with the Guinness guidelines for the percent distances of each sport. He thinks it will take between 52 and 64 days (9-11 days swimming, 21-27 days biking, 19-24 days running).

During his journey, Sam is working to raise money for the Lustgarten Foundation, which works to advance the scientific and medical research related to the diagnosis, treatment, cure and prevention of pancreatic cancer.

In addition to the simple feat of completing this thing, he’s training for it while still in undergrad! Sam has some great advice for time-management, goal-setting and efficiency.

What was your initial inspiration for the journey? How did you decide to take on the effort?

I actually came up with the idea to attempt a triathlon across the United States when I was a sophomore in college. However, back then (a little over two years ago), I could barely swim 100 yards, did not own a bike, and had never done a triathlon. Despite these “minor” setbacks, I was unable to stop dreaming about going for it. Finally this year, I decided this was going to happen. I love exercising, traveling, and fundraising, so combining these three activities into a two-month journey is an absolute dream.

How have you been preparing?

After finishing Ironman Texas last May, I took a break from endurance training and went back to weight training. For a while after deciding to go forward with TriAmerica2016 I simply worked on rebuilding my cardiovascular base. Then, after increasing my volume and spending between 25-32 hours a week exercising, I made a serious pivot in my training. I consulted with a Charlottesville legend, Mark Lorenzoni, and decided to focus on one sport for consecutive days. The purpose of this was to train in a way that is more representative of TriAmerica2016.

What are you most looking forward to?

I am most excited about three things: meeting interesting people along the way, the transition from bike to run, and raising a lot of money for the Lustgarten Foundation.

What do you think will be the most challenging?

I foresee the bike portion, my physical acclimation to the three sports, and the accumulated wear and tear of exercising continuously for weeks as the greatest challenges. I am most interested in the physical acclimation. There is often a lag period in multi day endurance events during which your body has to adjust to what you are trying to get it to do. TriAmerica2016 is a bit uncommon in that my body will undergo this acclimation period three separate times at the beginning each sport.

Who is your biggest inspiration?

Ha, this is an incredibly difficult question. I have derived inspiration from many, many sources, so instead of going too deep I will list some of those relevant to endurance who inspire me: Karl Metzler, Chris McCormack, Pam Reed, David Goggins, James Lawrence, Dick Hoyt, and most importantly my family. However cheesy it may sound, I am endlessly inspired by the work ethic and compassion my parents and two brothers (and future sister-in-law!) exhibit on a consistent basis.

How do you keep yourself motivated during training and life in general?

In order to help me stay focused and motivated, I follow a quasi-compass vector model that I developed while completely zoned out on a run. I imagine all of my goals, passions, dreams, etc. as vectors pulling me in a certain direction. However, not all of these vectors are complimentary and, in fact, many pull in opposing directions. Therefore, I try to prioritize my main goals and this helps me to align my management and use of time with the ultimate direction I truly wish to go. And even though this model is probably flawed, it has helped me make short-term sacrifices for the sake of long-term goals.

7) Any time-saving or goal-setting tips for people trying to balance triathlon with daily life?

Efficiency is key to having successful training days in a life with multiple commitments. Over the past few months, I have begun to create a list of things I would like to do the following day. This list is often long but simple.

For example: This is a 7.5-mile swim day on a weekday

  • Core
  • Swim (2 mi)
  • Eat
  • Class
  • Swim (3 mi)
  • Eat
  • Class & Meeting
  • Applications / TriAmerica2016 Planning
  • Swim (1 mi)
  • Eat
  • Swim (1.5 mi)
  • Read / Homework / TriAmerica2016 Planning

In addition to being straightforward, I try to exclude exact times from the list whenever possible. Personally, I think this is imperative to remain flexible and happy. With a simple list of items, I do not get anxious if I am running behind while exercising and am able to focus on getting a great training effort and actually enjoy the workout. This list also allows me to easily adjust to unpredictable events without becoming stressed.

What else do you think readers of should know?

I would like to end with two things.

First, please consider donating to the Lustgarten Foundation. We will be raising money and awareness for pancreatic cancer during TriAmerica2016 and 100% of all donations made through our website will go directly to this amazing foundation, which is a leader in the fight against pancreatic cancer.

Second, this is my third triathlon. Find your TriAmerica2016 equivalent, make it happen, and then do whatever you can to support others following their dream.

Lastly, what is the best way for people to follow you on your journey?

People can follow me on the TriAmerica2016 Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and we will be launching a TriAmerica2016 website soon as well. Please feel free to reach out to me.

Be sure to share some words of encouragement and support for Sam in the Comments section below!