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Taking the First Step: Nick Klingensmith’s Journey into Endurance Sports

Taking the First Step: Nick Klingensmith's Journey into Endurance Sports Run Tri Bike
Nick Klingensmith
Year started: 2016
Next race: September 14th, 2024 / Spartan Ultra / Killington, VT
Favorite gear:
  • MudGear

Endurance sports attract a diverse group of individuals, each with a unique story of how they began their journey and what keeps them motivated despite the challenges. Nick Klingensmith is one such individual whose path to becoming an OCR (Obstacle Course Racing) athlete is a testament to overcoming personal hurdles and finding new purpose. From battling cancer to conquering numerous Spartan races, Nick’s story offers valuable lessons, such as taking the first step, for those wondering how to start their own endurance journey.

A Rocky Start

Nick Klingensmith’s introduction to endurance sports was anything but straightforward. Despite running track in high school, his athletic pursuits took a backseat during college, where partying and work took precedence. It wasn’t until October 2016, when his boss challenged him to taking the first step to participate in a Spartan race, that Nick reconsidered the idea of re-engaging in physical activity.

“I looked up at him and I’m thinking, no. Absolutely, not,” Nick recalled, expressing his initial reluctance. The thought of an 8-10 mile trail run with obstacles seemed daunting. However, as he sat on his couch that evening, a realization struck him: he was already uncomfortable with his sedentary life. At this point, Nick was two years sober, managing diabetes, and had just overcome cancer for the fourth time. Yet, he felt stuck and unmotivated.

“I needed something. I needed a catalyst,” he said, deciding to take on the challenge. What started as a single race evolved into a passion that saw Nick completing 104 Spartans, six major marathons, and numerous other obstacle courses and endurance events.

Overcoming Mental Barriers

The lead-up to his first Spartan race marked a significant transformation in Nick’s life. Waking up at 5:00 AM to train before work, he found that small incremental changes redefined his self-belief. “The hardest thing I had ever done in my life at that point was simply set the alarm for 05:00 a.m.,” he admitted. This simple act shattered the bubble of self-imposed limitations and victim mentality he had created around himself.

The race itself was a survival mission. But as Nick walked up to the course and saw participants covered in mud, dirt, and blood, he felt an overwhelming sense of thrill and anticipation. “I wanted to be one of them,” he said. The experience was transformative, dismantling the lies he had told himself about his capabilities.

Finding Freedom in the Struggle

Nick’s first race was about survival, but it also instilled a new sense of freedom. “When I crossed that finish line, it was a matter of, like, this time, I didn’t know who I was, but I was so excited to find out because there were no limits at that point,” he explained. The completion of the race wasn’t just a physical victory; it was a massive mental breakthrough that led him to embrace the lifestyle of an OCR athlete.

Returning to work, Nick and his boss planned out a season of races, each one pushing him further and teaching him more about his own resilience and potential. Despite suffering from sleep apnea, diabetes, and the physical remnants of his battles with cancer, Nick continued to push his limits.


The Challenges of OCR and Beyond

Nick’s journey wasn’t without setbacks. His attempts at the ultra Spartan race in Killington, Vermont, have been particularly challenging. “I’ve DNF’d twice. I’ve missed a cutoff by six minutes,” he shared. The races, known for their high difficulty and significant elevation gain, tested Nick’s physical and mental endurance.

Despite these setbacks, Nick remains undeterred. “The race is tough. After the fifth peak on the way down, I might as well have just rolled down the mountain. I kept tripping over myself. I kept falling over myself,” he recounted about his last attempt. Yet, this didn’t dampen his spirit. Instead, it fueled his determination to conquer the race.

Setting Future Goals

Looking ahead, Nick’s goals include completing the Killington ultra and tackling the infamous Summer Death Race, a grueling survival event. “It’s probably about 72 hours long. I won’t make it. I doubt it,” he mused, acknowledging the immense challenge it poses. But true to his spirit, he remains committed to taking the first step to push his boundaries and exploring his limits.

Nick’s dedication to endurance sports extends beyond personal achievement. He left his job to become a speaker and coach, hoping to inspire others with his story and help them discover their potential through physical challenges. His journey illustrates that the first step—however small—is the most crucial in overcoming mental barriers and redefining one’s self-belief.

Lessons Learned and Shared

Nick’s story offers valuable lessons for those in endurance sports and beyond. First, take the initial step, no matter how daunting it seems. As Nick’s experience shows, setting an early morning alarm can be the catalyst for significant life changes.

Second, embrace the process and the incremental progress it brings. Each small victory builds upon the last, creating a foundation of confidence and resilience. Finally, set future goals that challenge and excite you, keeping the journey dynamic and engaging.

Nick Klingensmith’s journey from overcoming cancer to taking the first step to becoming an OCR athlete underscores the transformative power of endurance sports. His story inspires others to take that first step, confront their fears, and discover the uncharted potential within themselves.