“You hear people saying ‘send it’ a lot. Could be when grabbing an extra slice of pizza, dropping into a bowl while skiing, asking someone out on a first date, or signing up for an Ironman. Either way, they’re all looking to embrace the unknown – to push themselves a bit further. That’s what attracted me to triathlon, and ultimately taking it to the highest level to become an Ironman. I was seeking a big challenge when I signed up, especially given that I didn't know how to swim or own a bike. Hitting the finishers chute at Ironman Lake Placid last summer was one of the sweetest moments of my life, especially sharing it with my mom, brother and close friends.”
— Connor Grant, Ironman, Triathlete & Cyclist
Connor Grant Pacing Through Detroit's Eastern Market
There is something magical about the turn of the seasons. We often forget our tie to nature as we sit in our cars in rush hour traffic, spend our days in offices, and spend our weekends mulling over responsibilities before flipping on the TV. Unlike wild animals and even our pets at home, we tend to ignore our instincts that tell us to get out and explore. But we cannot deny it — there is an almost mystic quality in the air when we catch that first rush of spring air; a feeling of excitement when you catch a trace scent of foliage and soil that are no longer wilted and hardened by winter. And even if the city is your home (like us!), we recognize that you should never let the confines of your apartment or pavement get in the way of exploring and getting back to nature. Remember, nature can still be a concrete jungle.
Member of the MuskOx Herd and Detroiter, Connor Grant is a Triathlete & Cyclist who knows the importance and power of the great outdoors. Channeling his inability to sit still, Connor found marathons, which were a transformative experience, especially when you're from Michigan and training requires you to spend winter evenings running for miles. With growth in the sport, Connor mixed it up a bit and spontaneously competed in a half Ironman without owning a bike and shockingly not knowing how to swim. With surviving that experience, Connor is now steeped in the sport, its culture and community.
We caught up to Connor earlier in February to chat about his come up in endurance sports, and have him school the MuskOx Herd on training tips and the late-season grind so you can go 0 to 100 the moment spring's in gear.
How did you get started in an impossible looking sport?
I was at a yoga class in Detroit, and the instructor overheard I signed up for a half Ironman; she quickly said ‘Have you been to Detroit Body Garage yet? They have a triathlon team! I’ll make an intro.’ So just like that, I was quickly thrown into the Detroit endurance community with about 15 other athletes who were also training for Ironman Traverse City. It was a blast as we would swim at Belle Isle Beach, join the Saturday morning RUN Detroit group runs, and ride all over the place. Having teammates to train with helped me fall in love with the sport and the community. It was also a very cool way to meet people as I had recently moved to Detroit from Denver.
How have you mentally evolved as a triathlete?
I’ve relaxed a lot. Used to be laser focused on one race for an entire season, beating myself up if I missed one workout out of a six month training cycle. Heck, I didn’t even race many other events, which was a huge bummer given the fitness you work so hard for. You gotta enjoy it and the journey. Now, I try to do as many different events as I can. While I still have ‘A’ races and goals, I’m finding much more enjoyment and satisfaction in ‘staying ready so I don’t have to get ready’ for just about anything. It’s also fine to miss workouts here and there, take an offseason, and do other sports. I’d encourage anyone to do so honestly.
Connor Riding Through Detroit in a Quick Dry Quarter Zip
Safe to say training and gear is important? Any tips for the MuskOx Herd?
It’s important to embrace the seasons and what they offer, so ride your bike outside when you can, ski while you can, run all the time, and find a way to make your training fun. Variety is good and it makes you a better overall athlete. I’m lucky enough to have a coach, Geo Woodman, who helps guide me through training. I met him about four years ago when I started to get more serious about triathlons. He’s great about giving me freedom but also enough structure to be prepared for races. After a few seasons working with him, I’ve found the greatest value of a coach is how they can help you navigate your personal life and training. My training schedule is all over the place both from a time and location standpoint, so it’s hard to consistently get to group rides. DTR lets me throw up the bat signal and see who shows up. Triathlon can be a bit of a lone wolf sport, so having the ability to get the word out for a small group ride is always clutch!
Always remember, you’re bigger than one workout, one race or even one season. Endurance sports are a lifestyle, embracing it takes time
Buy as little gear as possible when you first start out. Both sports are heavy on the wallet, and the more connections you make in both, the easier and more affordable it is to get the right equipment. With triathlons, you have a constant influx of people getting into and leaving the sport, creating a lot of opportunity to buy the right thing once and not having to worry about it again…or at least for a while. Always remember, you’re bigger than one workout, one race or even one season. Endurance sports are a lifestyle, embracing it takes time. Often athletes get so focused they fail to see the bigger picture; enjoy the ride as well as the challenges and success that comes with it.
Connor Training in His Apartment in a Foundation Quick Dry
Verse us on the triathlon and endurance sport scene, is it niche, tight knit?
I’d never call the triathlon community tight as it’s a pretty loose collection of athletes; as most of us are training for different races at any given time, but it’s one of those ‘misery loves company deals and no one loves misery quite like triathletes.’ Cycling is certainly more tight knit but once you’re in, it’s up to you how deep you wanna get in. You can innocently go on a great ride and by the time you finish, you’ve spent next month's rent on a new mountain bike just so you can join a new group on Sunday at the local trailhead.
Overall, the endurance sport community is full of people looking to discover something about themselves, and I believe that truly brings everyone together. Triathlon and cycling are both kind of like a grown-up version of show and tell: you share scenery, stories, show off honeyholes only you might know about, you learn about yourself. People are inspired by others to tackle new distances, and then you have a bunch of new shared experiences.
Spring – whether you’re in the heart of the city like MuskOx or out in the wild – reminds us how badly we need to get outside, both for exercise and to socialize with friends and new acquaintances after a long winter. Like MuskOx, Connor understands that having a community of people beside you to motivate, teach, and build relationships is often the key to ensuring you push yourself harder. As the warmer winds start calling you outside, grab a hat, throw on a flannel, and embrace how the change in nature can bring out a change in routine.