Life is unpredictable.
It can be full of ups, downs, twists and turns that lead to experiences that can shape who a person becomes.
Often when met with challenges or obstacles along the way of life’s journey, most people tend to choose the path of least resistance.
But not Titans.
Titans welcome challenges and embrace every obstacle, because with every difficulty in life, there is an opportunity for growth.
Omar Kattan is a Titan.
In 2021, Kattan completed his first 140.6 ultra-distance triathlon at Michigan Titanium.
Because it was something that scared him.
“It seemed like the craziest thing that I came across at the time – it seemed insane, the most impossible task,” Kattan said of why he signed up for MiTi.
Kattan found himself in a difficult season of life that left him soul searching for something that would help him through it.
“One of the root causes of some of the hardships that I was going through was that I was constantly seeking immediate comforts in life,” he said.
Kattan started listening to some podcasts and videos on David Goggins, a motivational speaker and retired Navy SEAL who attributes extreme endurance sports with the ability of conquering life’s adversities.
With the inspiration from Goggins, Kattan decided he wanted to get involved with endurance sports to help him learn to be uncomfortable in life.
“You have your behaviors you know you shouldn’t be doing or not facing some of the things you need to face,” Kattan explained. “I made a decision that whenever I was faced with two choices, I was always going to choose the one that made me uncomfortable. Whenever my initial inclination was to avoid it, I would go toward it.”
It was then that Kattan came across Michigan Titanium and the ultra-distance triathlon – a race that made him very uncomfortable.
“Swimming, biking and running are three things in life that you just walk around and think you already know how to do. I biked when I was a kid, or used to swim and I ran while playing soccer, so I could do all three sports,” he said of getting started on his training. “But when you start to do them, it is a humbling experience.”
He continued, “the first thing I did was to buy a bike, I thought bikes were like a couple hundred dollars, I did not recognize that this was going to be a big investment. I didn’t start swimming until a few months before the race. I would spend about an hour a day, just drowning. I wasn’t swimming, I was essentially just drowning. The running piece was hard. I started running in January and I would get about half a mile and I was hurting my feet, my form was off. It was a learning experience through it all.”
Kattan made it through the training season however and arrived to Versluis Park on August 22, 2021 to step up to the MiTi start line.
As uncomfortable as training had been, race day was a whole new ballpark and presented many new challenges for Kattan.
He had trained in a wetsuit the whole time, yet it was announced that wetsuits were not allowed, which made his swim more difficult than expected.
“When it came to how hard the day was, it was definitely the swim because I got in the water and about three minutes in I thought ‘I made a big mistake.’ I was gassed, I was tired and I was getting passed by everyone. It was really overwhelming swimming in open water and it just became a battle of getting to the next buoy and then I was going to quit. And then whenever I would get to the next one, before I even touched it, I would think about the next buoy and it allowed me to get through it,” he said.
After surviving the swim, the bike also was a tough discipline.
“I felt like I was strong on the bike because I had been doing it the longest out of the three disciplines. It was definitely still a lot harder than I thought it would be, I kept having chain issues, I had to get off the bike to fix them. It was rough. The hilliness of the course was tough, I didn’t prepare for that,” he said.
Then out on the run, the biggest obstacle that Kattan began to face was time.
With still miles to go, he was nearing the race cutoff time. When Race Director John Mosey found him out on the course, he reminded him of Goggins and the mental game that the run can play when it comes to finishing. Mosey encouraged him that despite the timing, if he wanted to finish the race, the whole MiTi crew would be there waiting for him at the finish line no matter what time he arrived.
“The fear of failure really jump started another level of energy. I kept running and something happened where I really was able to kick it into gear and then when I crossed at the end, it was overwhelming feelings of gratitude – a lot of love for my friends, volunteers and MiTi crew that were there and waiting for me, I couldn’t have done this impossible task if it weren’t for everyone around me.”
Kattan crossed the finish line as the final person of the day, officially becoming a Titan and officially conquering his impossible task.
And despite the difficulty of the day, the lessons that Kattan learned along the way was what he was seeking and the uncomfortableness of it all, was just what he needed.
“Ultra-distance triathlons are going to be a part of my life going forward. It is not easy, I definitely don’t think it is something that is easy to do, even if you do it regularly, however it is important to have humbling experiences in your life, this was one. Difficult things you do by choice, they are valuable in life. It’s representative of life in general. Challenges come and go and you have to just keep moving forward and just do it for yourself. Surprise yourself.”