Chris Hartley’s Ironman Challenge

K Hovnanian’s Chris Hartley decided to mark his 40th birthday with a new challenge: An Ironman Triathlon. With the help of a coach, Chris is training for the Ironman November competition in Tempe, Arizona, which consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run. “This is maybe the dumbest thing I’ve ever decided to do,” Chris joked.

In December of 2015 Chris found himself the father of a 4-month-old little girl and a very unhealthy and overweight individual. It was at that moment that he knew he needed to make a change and make it fast. So what did he do? In that one evening, Chris signed up for a half marathon per month, every month, in 2016 with the hopes of completing the Dallas Marathon in December of 2016. “Everyone just laughed at me,” Chris recalled, “They were like, ‘You do know this isn’t easy, right?’” Remembering his days as a collegiate soccer player, though, Chris was confident that he was up to the challenge.

After his first race in January 2016, however, he realized just how much work he had cut out for himself. “It took me four hours to finish my first race,” Chris continued, “I threw up twice, I cried at the end, and I had no idea how my legs were going to drive me all the way back home from Fort Worth to Frisco.”

These races were meant to be part of his training for the Dallas Marathon, which was slated for December 2016 — almost exactly one year later, which would prove to be a momentous occasion in his life and catalyst that kept him always looking ahead to the next milestone.

Chris was about nine races in before he could finish one without stopping, but he learned very early on in the process that he enjoyed working toward something. “It’s important for me to be moving toward a goal,” Chris said, “Because if I’m not — I know myself — and I’ll just go right back into my sedentary lifestyle.”

He’s now run more than 100 half-marathons, 7 marathons, and 2 triathlons. He also recently completed a fundraising challenge with a friend in which he ran two marathons, two days in a row, which made him want to explore even further what his body was capable of. So, five years after the pivotal decision to begin setting these intense fitness goals for himself, Chris decided to go all in with a Full Ironman Triathlon in November in Tempe, AZ. With the help of a coach, Chris is training for the competition, which consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run. “This is maybe the dumbest thing I’ve ever decided to do,” Chris joked.

In fact, if it weren’t for his source of motivation, he’s not sure he would be so committed to these challenging goals. Any time he runs a race, Chris uses it as an opportunity to raise awareness and support for a charity. This year, he’s chosen to support the National Angels, a national nonprofit, whose mission is “to walk alongside children, youth, and families in the foster care community by offering consistent support through intentional giving, relationship building, and mentorship.”

Their mantra states that while not everyone is called to foster or adopt, anyone can make a difference in a child’s life. The National Angels organization partners with mentors, donors, and other community members to surround the foster care communities in more than 22 locations and ensure that every child has the resources and relationships they need to live out their full potential.

Chris was introduced to the National Angels organization through his colleague, Meredith Chapman (whose name you might recognize from our January premiere issue). Meredith knew Susan Ramirez, CEO of National Angels, in college. Together, Meredith and Susan helped to launch Austin Angels, and National Angels was officially founded in 2016. The organization has rapidly expanded and now consists of 22 chapters across the country. “I love their mission so much, and when Meredith introduced me to Susan, I just completely fell in love with who she was” Chris said, “She and her family are a total inspiration.”

Last year, Chris helped Susan and her team hit a fundraising goal that made them eligible to receive a $50,000 match. His passion for the cause reverberated through his community so vibrantly, the goal was reached in under an hour. As a result, Susan knew she could turn to Chris and his supportive community again this year when pandemic-related fundraising difficulties arose. Clearly not one to shy away from a challenge, Chris said it was a no-brainer that he should use his Ironman journey to raise $10,000 for the organization.

A known connector, encourager, and builder in his community, Chris has a gift for inspiring others to think bigger and dig deeper. His energy is contagious, his perspective is enlightening, and his fervor for the causes he cares about is indelible. Simply put: You want Chris in your corner. A personal goal of his is to be on the other side of a fundraising initiative someday that will allow him to provide a $50,000 matching gift.

Clocking 15-20 hours of training per week is no small feat, especially when you’re trying to be present for your 3-and 6-year-old daughters, who make this endeavor personal, he said. Throughout his race preparation, he’s begun to understand commitment in a whole new way, training throughout the week, plus an additional four to six hours on the weekends. He’s also overcoming fears. After nearly drowning during the open swim due to a struggling competitor in his first triathlon, Chris noticed a mental roadblock when it came to that part of the race that he’s had to consciously overcome.

His holistic motivation to continually move forward in his goals can be summed up in one brief phrase: “Betterment over ego.” His friend, at the beginning of his Ironman training, reminded him that at the end of the journey, no matter what, he’s going to be better for the grueling training, the calorie-counting, the insane time-budgeting, even the salt licks consumed. All of these tests, he pointed out, are helping him to achieve not only physical strength, but mental fortitude. That’s really what the race is about, he said — proving to yourself that you have the mental toughness to endure a competition this demanding. He’s pacing to finish somewhere between 15 and 17 hours (which is the official time limit), and it all has to be completed without any media or audio devices. “I’m literally going to be in my own head for 17 hours. That’s a long time to be with your thoughts,” Chris laughed.

He hopes to round out the experience by getting an iconic Ironman tattoo, which is just a token of the blood, sweat, and tears he’s put in to prepare for the event. And to get the tattoo, by the way, one must prove that they actually completed the entire competition in the allotted time, so you know the ink is authentic when you see it out in the wild.

Chris doesn’t deny the nerves, but the excitement of rallying his community for a worthy cause outshines any dread he might be feeling. And regardless of the outcome, Chris knows that when he crosses that finish line, though his mind and body are bound to be completely spent, he will have chosen betterment over ego. Betterment of himself, betterment of his community, and betterment of the lives of thousands of children across the country.

You Can Support Chris AND National Angels at:

www.flipcause.com/secure/cause_pdetails/MTMxMDQz

National Angels Mission:

We wrap community around Children, youth, and Families experiencing Foster care.

Not everyone is called to foster, and not everyone is called to adopt, but anyone can make a difference in a child’s life.

National Angels Mission Statement: to walk alongside children, youth, and families in the foster care community by offering consistent support through intentional giving, relationship building, and mentorship.

If you’d like to learn more about the National Angels or give a gift in Chris’s honor, visit nationalangels.org, and see how you can get involved with a chapter near you.