Episode 12: From Adversity to the Finish Line with Eric McElvenny

About This Episode

Eric McElvenny brings us a story of grit, determination, and hope. Eric served as a Marine Corps Infantry Officer and was wounded after stepping on an IED. He suffered the amputation of his right leg below the knee, a life-changing opportunity that began his next journey, as an athlete, speaker, and example of how to get from adversity to the finish line.

Transcript

Transcript for this weeks message

Shane Jacob

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this segment of The Horsemanship Journey. Today we bring you a story of grit, determination, and hope. Today's guest is Eric McElvenny. Eric earned a mechanical engineering degree from the United States Naval Academy while preparing for his service as a Marine Corps infantry officer. Eric deployed three times as a Marine, and on his final tour in Afghanistan, he was wounded after stepping on an IED. Eric suffered the amputation of his right leg below the knee, a life-changing opportunity that began his next journey as an athlete and speaker. Eric had the privilege to represent Team USA in triathlon in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. He has finished eight full Ironman races and has now raced over 50 other races. Eric thank you so much for taking your time to join us here on The Horsemanship Journey today.

 

Eric McElvenny

You're welcome. You're welcome. Thanks for having me. Thanks for the introduction.

 

Shane Jacob

Right on. Well that was a pretty kind of a short introduction. I was wondering if you could just tell us a little bit more about your story for those who might yet have not heard about you quite yet from, you know, back from even from beginning to join the military. Just tell us about where it began.

 

Eric McElvenny

Yeah, yeah, so I guess I start in eighth grade. In eighth grade I had to do a career research report, "What do you wanna be when you grow up?" It was for eighth grade English, and we weren't allowed to do this report on being a profession athlete. And I loved sports, I played all kind of sports, so that was like my first couple choices, you know? That was my first nine choices, being a professional athlete.

And then I had to choose something different. So I wasn't sure I went home and I asked my parents, "All right, what do you think I should write this report on?" And my dad said, "The military. You should write it on being in the military." And just what jumped into my head immediately was from the commercials that I saw on TV was the United States Marine Corps. You know, I thought that they, in the mid 80s, when I was making this huge life decision, they had the best commercials to be one of the few, the proud, the Marines.

And that just, that jumped out to me and I'm like, all right, there it is, I'll do my report on the Marine Corps. And I did that report, we had to do the research, you know, I went and went to a recruiter to get some more information. I went to the library and I realized like, wow, the Marines represent just the rich history and the stories of valor and heroes and sacrifice. I knew that I wanted to be a part of that. So that's where it started and I decided in the eighth grade that I was going to be a Marine when I grew up. So that's. You know, I started to look up to our military veterans and definitely look at them in a different way as the men and women that I wanted to exemplify. So, you know, through high school, I continued to work hard in school and on the sports fields.

And my grandpap, he was, he's an army veteran. He served in Korea and he kind of, he guided me towards the United States Naval Academy. You know, out of the Naval Academy, depending on the needs of the military, about 20 to 25% of graduates become Marine Corps officers. And so he guided me that way, said I could keep playing sports, get an education, and then become a Marine and become a Marine officer through there. So I was like, all right, let's do it. And I went there and played some rugby, studied mechanical engineering, which ended up being one of the best decisions in my life. And I mean, not really, I've never really worked as an engineer, but that's where I met my wife.

And she was also a student studying mechanical engineering. So I met her and started going to her for help in my coursework because I thought she was really cute. So that was my strategy. And we graduated, she became an officer in the Navy. I became an officer in the Marine Corps. A lot happened really quickly. We had our first daughter and we got married, moved out to the west coast and started deploying. So we did five overseas deployments and it was my last deployment, was the trip to Helmand province, Afghanistan, where I was injured. So that was kind of the backstory of how I got into the military and how I ended up a Marine.

 

Shane Jacob

Well from there, so you're in Afghanistan, you kind of, I mean you had to, I mean were you excited? It seems like you kind of reached your goal and it seems like things are going pretty good. You're married and kind of living the things that are going how you want. What happened next?

 

Eric McElvenny

Yes, so I was serving in Afghanistan. I had a kind of a unique job. So I was an infantry officer. So usually you have a unit full of Marines, but this was a unique job where I had four Marines to include myself. Actually three Marines and a Navy corpsman. He was part of our group. And we just call him a Marine. He's tough. Awesome guy. But our job was we embeddedinto an Afghan Army infantry company of about 120 soldiers. And our job was to advise them and train them during combat operations. And we were with them for,it was supposed to be a seven month deployment. We were with them about three and a half months. And yeah, a little past the halfway mark, my life changed,right? It was December 9th in 2011, went on a patrol. And on this patrol, I triggered an IED explosion, an improvised explosive device. So like I stepped on it, it was hidden in the ground and it triggered the explosion underneath me, which led to the amputation in my right leg and some damage on my left leg and my arm. And I remember the experience vividly, you know, just a violent force picked me up and threw me to the ground and my ears were ringing, you know, a very high pitched ringing sound. Like I didn't even, I didn't even hear the explosion. It was more like a pop and then my ears are ringing and life was in slow motion. And I didn't know what had happened.

 I was conscious, but I had a concussion and I was dazed. I didn't know what was going on. And slowly things were coming back to me. I felt a wetness on my left leg. I didn't feel any pain. I could smell chemicals. And then suddenly I tried to open my eyes and it was all dusty and dirty. And I'm like, okay, wait a second. I'm in Afghanistan. I'm laying on my back. I was looking into the sky, and a second earlier it's a beautiful blue sky without a cloud in it, and now it's full of smoke and dust. And then I realized, like, oh my goodness, I just stepped on an IED. And I knew it. I knew that, because that was the weapon that we saw over and over again. And I was like, man, I stepped on an IED. And I knew that I was bleeding on my left leg pretty high, and I still at that point really didn't feel anything. I didn't feel the pain yet. And for a moment I thought I might be dying.

And there are two thoughts went through my head. At first I thought, like I was gonna get to go to heaven. And it was like acceptance. I don't know if I prepared myself for this, but you know, I'm a Christian and I think heaven is an amazing place. So I'm thinking about that. And then all of a sudden I pictured my wife and my daughter's face and I got scared. There were still things on this earth I wanted to do. And I remember at this point, I'm thinking about them. And then my corpsman, our Navy corpsman came running up tome and started taking care of me, you know, cause that's what we do. We take care of each other.

And then the Marines in the area, and everyone got me out of there. I got me out of there, a helicopter ride to the hospital, went into surgery, woke up after surgery, missing my right leg about five inches below my knee, bandages all up and down my left leg and my arm. And that was a day that my life changed. And yeah, it was the end of that journey and it's the start of a whole new journey and a whole new opportunity.

 

Shane Jacob

What were your thoughts as you were in the hospital, realizing that your leg was gone and what was going through your head at that point?

 

Eric McElvenny

Yeah, there is a lot. You know, I was going, it was kind of like an emotional roller coaster. And I remember on the helicopter just some of the emotions that were going through me. And first, I remember just being so angry at myself. We aren't supposed to step on IEDs. I should have saw the sign. I should have seen that. I was a captain in the Marine Corps. I was a senior ranking guy on the ground down there and I was the one that stepped on this IED. So I was like mad at myself, a little bit embarrassed that I did. And then the weird sensation, like I felt relief. I was fighting this war in Afghanistan and leading this team and it was challenging and I didn't realize how heavy this burden was. Just one, the burden of leadership and then two, just really I took this mission seriously trying to get our Afghan counterparts to really take over the responsibility of securing the district that we were in. And when I was flying out of there, I felt relief. It's like, oh my goodness, like I don't, my war in Afghanistan is done. My fight's done. Like I don't have to worry about that anymore.

And then when I realized I was thinking about that, I felt guilty because now my guys, my team of four is down to three and they're still going to have to step up and finish this mission for the next three and a half months. And now I felt guilty. And I was just going back and forth from this to that. And, you know, going into surgery, I wake up and I'm in the hospital and still like, I'm grateful. I was grateful that I was alive. I was scared of the unknown. Like I now I didn't I was missing a leg. I didn't know what that looked like. I was scared how my daughter was going to react to that. You know, I didn't know what my wife was going to think of that. I was in and out of pain in and out of surgery. So it was there was just a lot going on. And it was kind of almost like an emotional chaos for days really trying to figure out what was next.

 

Shane Jacob

I can imagine. I mean, I can't imagine, but it makes sense hearing that you must have had a myriad of emotions going on. I heard you mentioned that at one point, I think you said it was in the hospital, where you got an email from somebody, a superior or something, that they might have mentioned a marathon or something. Do you want to tell us about that?

Eric McElvenny

Yeah, yeah. So my commanding officer, Ike Moore, he was a major at that time and he was in Afghanistan. I had made it back to a hospital, the Naval Medical Center in San Diego at this point. I finished up my fifth surgery. That was probably gonna be my last one. Things were starting to go in a good direction. This is probably close to two weeks after my injury and he was communicating with my family a little bit and with me just through email and he sent me an email. And I was laying in my hospital bed and I opened it up and I was reading this email and it said, "Hey Eric, Let me know when you're gonna run your first marathon." And that was it. You know, that was an email. Yeah, I remember thinking to myself like, you know, what a jerk. Why would you say that? But also I knew what he was doing. He knew what I needed to hear to get motivated to stop worrying about what it is that I cannot do anymore and focus on what I can and get out there and set a goal, put my forward, you know, even if I only, even if I only had one foot and start pushing through. And he challenged me at running a marathon. So that's when I decided that I, you know, I wanted to one-up it. And I set a goal to run an Ironman triathlon, you know, an Ironman, in an Ironman, you swim 2.4 miles, you ride your bike 112 miles, and then you run a marathon.

So I was going to show him right, you know, the 26.2 mile run. So it's 140.6 total. And I set this goal. It felt, it felt almost impossible. You know, and I and I'll tell you, like I, I figured there was other races that I can do and that I can finish. But this Ironman, I didn't know. I knew that I was taking on a tall task, something that really inspired me. And that's why, like, I ask people all the time, do you have a goal right now that inspires you? Because when you have that goal, when I set this goal and it inspired me, thinking about being on that course and doing the training and everything that it was gonna take, like I was inspired, it was reason for me to get out of bed in the morning each day, you know, to get after it and to go to my appointments and the physical therapy and just to be the best person that I could be to take down this goal.

And, you know, I just had a wonderful group of people around me with my family and friends and just a support network that helped us start really moving towards that task. But it was kind of neat you know, that started, this journey started with a simple email from someone who cared about me enough to challenge me. He cared about me enough to challenge me. And that's, you know, when people challenge us, they care about us. Because when we, you know, when we face a little bit of pressure and challenge and adversity, we grow, we get better. And I think that should be our goal all the time to always be growing and getting better, getting more educated.

Shane Jacob

There's a couple of things in that I just wanted to touch on. One is that what may have seemed a small little thing at the time from him as far as his effort had such a tremendous impact. Even so, to impact our listeners and viewers today and all the thousands and potentially millions of people that you've been able to inspire in your life and everything else, from that one little act is actually incredible. But, just go back another half a step because I have a question because I'm visualizing me and I'm looking and thinking about things that I would consider are much less devastating than having an amputation, have my leg amputated and thinking that, you know, "I'm just kind of mad," and kind of feeling sorry for myself and just. I don't know, did you have any thoughts like that before? Or did this goal just move you right towards it?

 

Eric McElvenny

I'm human. I definitely had those thoughts as well. And I'll tell you like that was the first, the first week or two before I had that goal I just kept running it, rerunning the whole day in my mind that whole morning waking up going on the patrol like where I went wrong. What did I do wrong? Like almost trying to change the past and finally, like when he challenged me and I set a goal, I was like, you know what? I can't change the past. Can't change it, but I can affect the future. And that's what I'm gonna do right now. Like, done thinking about that. I'm not gonna worry about it. But, you know, day in and day out, like I have bad days sometimes. Sometimes I have to remind myself, like, okay, I've been through worse. I can get past this small situation here. And it's, one thing that I use that helps me out a lot is, I just try to remind myself of the things that I'm grateful for.

And my daughter actually taught me this after my injury. Such a simple thing. But when I was injured, my wife told her and it was, she was in kindergarten, she was five years old. And she sat her down before, My daughter's name is Lupe. Before Lupe was going off to school, she sat her down and told her. And Lupe responded really quickly. She said, you know, she said, well, when is daddy coming home? Like my wife said, daddy got hurt at work and he lost one of his legs and he's going to be coming home. So her response was, when is daddy coming home? And my wife said in about a week, you know, that was the kind of the timeframe that the Marine Corps gave her. And this is in December. And my daughter's smart, I guess. And she took about 10 seconds to process all of the information. And then she smiled. And she said, daddy's going to be home for Christmas. And I thought that was so cool, because it was such a negative event for me, and my wife, and my parents, and my friends, and my little five-year-old daughter just so purely pulled something positive from the situation. And I just knew immediately, like, she was the person I wanted to be around. You know? And I realized also, you know, it's a kid's way of thinking, but when do we lose that kid's way of thinking? Like, when... It leaves us at some point. And what she did was so simple. That was just her being grateful for what she had. Like, she saw that. She still had her father, and she knew that, and she was grateful for it. And I'm like, wow, that's simple. That's so simple. Like, I have a lot to be grateful for. I'm grateful that I'm still alive, and I'm grateful that I still get to be her father.

I'm grateful that I still have my left leg. You know, I lost my right one. I got my left one. I didn't used to like my left one until I lost my right one. Now I love it. You know, I'm grateful that I had all the prosthetics that I have, you know, I have a running blade and a cycling leg. Like the technology and prosthetics is awesome. I'm definitely grateful that I had the privilege to serve in our country. You know, that's something I wanted to do and just grateful to be on the journey. So when I'm having a rough day, like that's where I go. I go like, okay, where am I blessed? Where have I been blessed and how can I be grateful for that? And that puts things in a different perspective. And there's things that we can all be grateful for. So that's what I tell people is like, when you wake up, think of like two or three things that you're grateful for and that starts your day strong. And when you have gratitude in your life, one, I think like one, a resilient person has gratitude and is able to be grateful for the things in their life. And someone who's going to get out there and reach goals, first, it starts with gratitude. So I think it starts with gratitude.

Shane Jacob

That is awesome. Gratitude builds, it's good for resilience. That's super powerful. And your daughter's thought, I mean, of all the millions of thoughts that she could have had, I mean, what a super reminder of, you know, the first initial thought is, is you're gonna be there for Christmas. I mean, that's just super amazing. That's awesome. Eric, I heard you, I watched the video not too long ago here, and you were also telling a story about your daughter when you were issued a placard and you went to the store and I was wondering if you could recount that story about the handicapped placard.

Eric McElvenny

Oh, definitely. Yeah, it's a fun story. And as Lupe, again, my daughter, I think everyone should go out and rent a five year old for a couple days if you don't have one, just to remind you. Because they tell you how it is. And they just, I don't know, she helped teach me a lesson and remind me of something that I was doing that was kind of holding me back. And so it starts when I was when I was at the hospital, I was given a handicap placard. Which makes sense, right? You know, I just lost my leg, but I was stubborn. I was prideful. I wasn't ready to be handicapped yet. You know, I was kind of fresh off the battlefield. I threw that thing in the garbage. And I don't know what happened for the next couple of months. I must've just complained a lot or something. And I got, so I got another one in the mail. I don't know if that first one expired and they just automatically sent me another one, but I grabbed it.

And I was living in San Diego and driving a truck. And I swear some of the parking spots in San Diego are a little bit smaller. So I'm gonna keep this handicap placard. I put it in my glove box. You know, for a rainy day. And then I realized it doesn't rain in San Diego. So I started using it on sunny days too. I'd pull into work and it's like, wow, it looks like a pretty far walk. I think I'm gonna be handicapped today, you know? And I'd park into my spot and put up my placard and kind of start limping in. Like, hey, I got the leg thing going on if anyone's curious. And one day I was with Lupe and I had never used it around anyone else. It was just my own thing. But I pulled into the grocery store and there was no parking anywhere, and I just didn't wanna deal with it.

So I drove up, pulled in or zipped to the front of the store and pulled into a handicap spot. And I opened the glove box and I grabbed my placard and I hung it up in the rear view mirror. And I'm like, Lupe, let's go. And we get out of the truck and we start walking into the store and she says, dad, what was that magic blue ticket? And I'm like, oh, that, well, because daddy only has one leg, I'm allowed to park right there when I use that magic blue ticket. That's for people like me. And without missing a beat, she says, but dad, you have five legs. You have your running leg, your biking leg, you have your water leg, your walking leg, and your left leg. I remember her saying that and I'm thinking to myself, right, I do, I have a little bit of an advantage sometimes. And I'm walking into the store and I'm like, let's go, you know, like a little brat. You know, I'm walking through the aisles and I was feeling guilty. I realized, I realized like I was using my leg as an excuse when it was convenient for me.

And it wasn't just with parking, it was with other things. It was with training. Like I'd go on a run with some buddies and if they were going a little bit too fast for my liking, I'd say, oh, you guys keep going. I got my leg thing going on, I'll stop and fix this. And I realized, wow, I was using my leg as an excuse and it was holding me back from reaching my potential. And that day, walking through the store, I made a promise to myself that I will never use this stupid leg as an excuse again. And it was the most freeing thing that I had ever done. It's like now I just had to figure it out. If I had trouble running or if I had trouble climbing this or my daughter wanted to go skiing, can I get this foot into a ski? You know, like, you just have to figure it out. This is not an excuse to not do something. It's not an excuse to stop running. Yeah, this is not an excuse to park somewhere way closer. And I have nothing against handicap parking. But I was training for an Ironman at that point, right? You know, I had run six miles that day and now like I'm using this leg as an excuse. So she taught me an important lesson. She opened my eyes up to something that I was doing that was holding me back. And it was just using this leg as an excuse. And I just, you know, I share it with you because we all have excuses. And then, you know, the next time you're gonna use that excuse, you can ask yourself like, what is this holding me back from reaching? And also like, all right, if I don't use excuse, like what am I gonna gain from it? Like, you know, if I go and do this task, maybe it's something simple like getting up and maybe you're trying to write a book, getting up and writing for 30 minutes like, but you're tired, you know. But I'm going to use this excuse like I'm tired and I had a long day. Well, if you don't use an excuse, what are you going to get closer to doing? What are you going to get closer to finishing that book? So again, it's all about putting your best foot forward and being the best version of you. And when we have excuses in our life, you know, that holds us back, holds us back from reaching our potential.

Shane Jacob

That is a fun story, and a powerful story. Eric, if you would just go back to you've got these prosthesis now I guess and you want to talk a little bit about that? And then the road to get into your first race and you know the conditioning. And then how it all went on your first race?

Eric McElvenny

Yeah, all right. Yeah. So after my injury, I had that goal to run an Iron Man. But there were there were mornings that I couldn't even get out of bed. Right. I was in pain and I was trying to come off of like this pain medication so I can be more independent. And I was coming off it too quick and it was just hard. So like I couldn't I couldn't focus on that Iron Man. For you know, there were certain days I couldn't. And that's why we had to break this big goal into milestones. Milestone one was learning to walk. So two months after my injury, you know, after work and after strengthening my core and doing physical therapy, we finally put on that first prosthetic leg and started walking. And then I had to learn how to swim. And when we compete, I swim without my leg. So I go clockwise, like aim left to go straight. But you know, we figure it out. I learned how to run learn how to bike. And then my first actual race was eight months after the injury, and it was just a sprint triathlon. So we're trying to get to this Ironman. But again, that's just a milestone a sprint triathlon is like an hour to an hour and a half long race instead of an all-day race.

So again like we did it did that first race. In the first year I was able to compete in three different triathlons, and they're getting a little bit longer each one. And I ran my first marathon. I ran the Marine Corps marathon and in Washington DC, which is an awesome race. And then that second year, I got a call from an organization that was Refuel, Got Chocolate Milk. And they were marketing chocolate milk as a recovery drink for athletes because chocolate milk has all the necessary nutrients, minerals and proteins that our body needs to recover after a hard workout. I was under contract to say that so it rolls off the tongue. But they said, Eric, we're going to go compete. We're putting together a team to compete at the Ironman World Championships. We saw what you did last year. Do you want to be part of that team? And I said, yes.

So I'm part of this team. There are four athletes, four of us. And cool, like cool for me, like I'm from Pittsburgh. I live in Pittsburgh again. So I'm a Steelers fan when it comes to football and Hines Ward, he's a retired Pittsburgh Steeler. He was one of the members of our team as well and just an awesome guy. He's a future hall of fame wide receiver, just great. So he was going to be doing this journey as well and finishing the Ironman. Yeah, we had about eight months from when that was named to get ready for this Ironman. And in that eight months, we did a couple more races. I did, I think, three half Ironmans, a couple more sprint triathlons. And then the big race came. The Ironman World Championships is i nKona, Hawaii. And it's the like usually the second or third weekend of October, second weekend of October, and went out and did the race.

And it was, long day, long race, but we were able to come across that finish line 11 hours and 54 minutes. There was a point that I didn't know if I was gonna finish. There was a point eight miles from the finish line where I was sitting on the ground, I had my leg off, my limb was swollen, I was out of energy, like the wheels were falling off, and I just, I had to remind myself like, okay, you're here, you're gonna finish this race. Like, you're a Marine, we don't quit. Like, let's figure this out. And I just was able to get that leg back on, thinking about all the people that were supporting me and just coming across that finish line.

And it was such a cool experience. It was 22 months from when I set that goal to when I was able to cross that finish line. And I did, became an Ironman and continued racing. Just because I just love that sport where you just put your body to the test. Put your body to the test that you're not sure if you could finish. It's like putting your body to that limit and it's both physical and mental and I just, man, I love it. I just, I love that. I love, I love the challenge. I love the challenge.

Shane Jacob

Eric, some of this, I'm wondering if you just might talk a little bit about, you know, that point, I think you said it was eight miles out, and like, what was going through your head and really how did you get yourself to understand, like, your leg swelled up and you couldn't get your leg back on and it seemed like everything was going bad and to redirect your thoughts to make it happen. I think a lot of us get in those positions and it's just too easy to quit, you know, and just, and not. But could you just touch on, you know, how that, exactly what was going through your head and how you kind of got back in the game?

 

Eric McElvenny

Yeah, yeah, and I gotta be honest with you. Like, I thought about quitting. And I don't quit much. Like, I don't quit a lot of things, but I just remember this feeling, and it's like, oh my goodness, like this is, that finish line seems so far from here. And in my head, it's like, man, I need an excuse to get out of this thing. Like, I just, I wanted to give up. I wanted to give up, but at the same time, I knew at the end of that day, I was gonna look in the mirror, and could I really, and I asked myself that question, like Eric, did you leave everything out there? Did you try as hard as you could to get to that finish line? And if I would have quit, but I did try as hard as I could to get to that finish line, like I'd have been okay with it, you know? But I knew I had more in me. I knew I had more in me, and I just, I thought through it.

I thought through it. I was like, okay. I, first off, like I made a decision, I'm not quitting. All right, I'm not, I'm going to get to that finish line. So like the question became, the question was not, am I gonna finish this race? The question became like, how am I gonna finish this race, right? So like that was gone, finishing it no matter what, all right? And how am I gonna do it? Like that's, we can ask ourselves that question. Like when we're struggling and there's a challenge or an obstacle or some adversity in front of us, it's like, how am I gonna get past it?

How am I gonna do that? That's when we're in problem solving mode. So it's like, okay, how am I gonna do this? And now my mind was engaged with, how can I get from here to the finish line? And not, how can I come up with an excuse of why not to finish? So my mind was engaged with something healthy and I'm thinking through it. It's like, I have to get my leg back on. My limb was swollen, because I had taken my leg off, my limb was swollen. I needed calories. So like I was just doing one thing at a time. And everything that I did got me a little bit closer to the finish line.

I ate a peanut butter sandwich. That gave me calories so I could get energy. I elevated my limb, I laid back, I let my heart rate come down. That helped some of the swelling come out. And eventually I was able to get my leg back on. Then I was able to stand up. Then I was able to walk. And I'm just walking one foot in front of the other. And my leg wasn't all the way on yet, but like it was just, what can I keep doing? What can I do next to get a little bit closer to that finish line? And as long as I was moving in that direction, then like I knew things were good. So I was engaged mentally, I was engaged physically, and I was engaged on the process of, all right, what's next to get me closer to that finish line instead of, all right, should I try to quit this thing? And I could be in my bed in an hour and comfortable. So I just kept doing that one thing after the other and next thing I knew, I was jogging and I was back in it and that's when I knew it.

And I just, I'll never forget that feeling. Coming close to that finish line with the people lining the streets, and they were yelling and they had cowbells and they were screaming and cheering me on. Like that was, that's when I realized that was worth it. You know, thinking through that whole process and taking it one step at a time. And it was worth it. Cause I got to that finish line and it felt so good. I remember coming across that finish line thinking, like I almost don't remember it. Now my wife was there, I gave her a big hug. It was, it was more than a race to me, right? This thing was, it was personal. This was me proving to myself something, right? And I just, it felt so good to cross that finish line.

Shane Jacob

That is so awesome and powerful. Just that when I hear you talk about that, moving from how am I not gonna do this or how's that all gonna go to just eliminating that from your thought process. That's no longer an option and then taking those steps. I mean, that's super excellent advice, I think. It's just that, yeah, very powerful. Thank you for that. And I mean, just to see the adversity, that moment and all the moments to be able to accomplish the things that you've done really are an inspiration for some of us, for all of us. We appreciate your time. Last thoughts, what would you like to leave us with today? Anything that we kind of missed in the conversation about you that, what would you like to leave us with today on The Horsemanship Journey?

 

Eric McElvenny

Uh, you know, like I was asked a question, you know, when I go out and speak and I share to a bunch of different audience, could be a corporation or an association or a school. And I was at a high school and this was early on in my injury and I had a student ask me, if you can go back to the day you were injured, what would you change? And I remember, I remember, you know, at first I was like, well, maybe I wouldn't step right there, you know, that kind of hurt, I'll go around it. And I thought about it. And I really had to put some time thinking about it. Like, what would I change? If I could go back, would I change it? And I realized one, like, I wouldn't want to go through that pain again. Physically and emotionally, it was a hard time. Not just the incident, but like the months that followed it for myself, for my family, for my friends. Like, it was hard. It was definitely hard. But I realized what my priorities were through this thing.

And I realized what they are when I think back to the day that I was injured. You know, I stepped on that IED and there was a moment that I thought I might be dying and two thoughts went through my head. First, I thought I was gonna get to go to heaven and then I thought about my wife and my daughter and I realized those are the two things that I think about when I think I might be dying. Those must be the two most important things in my life, my faith and my family. And am I living according to those two priorities? And you know, I had to make some rudder steers to get on track and I still have to make sure that I'm staying on track, but when my priorities are in line, then everything else seems to fall in place. So I guess that's it. That's what I wanna leave with people with is, what are your priorities? What are your priorities? Are you living according to your priorities? And what do you need to do to get on track? And I just wanna remind you, what are you grateful for? Maybe write it down, but every day, I look at a picture of my family and I'm just absolutely grateful for them. That helps me continue to push forward.

Shane Jacob

Awesome. That is such great advice. We appreciate your thoughts. I think you've gained a few thousand, potentially a few million more, more fans to be cheering you on as you continue. What, how do people, what's the best way to reach you if people are interested in having you speak and learn more about you? Where do we find you?

 

Eric McElvenny

How you can find me? My website is my name, www.ericmcelvenny.com. And then I'm on social media just again as my name, like the handle is Eric McElvenny on Instagram and Facebook. And I don't always do a great job of keeping those updated because I'm out training and getting ready for the next event. But I'll try to do a better job because right now we're trying to qualify for the Paris Paralympics in the sport of triathlon. So I'm gonna do a lot of racing in the next year and try to get there because my wife wants to go to Paris and I wanna see the Eiffel Tower with her. So that's our next goal. But thank you. And thank you so much for having me on. It's been wonderful.

Shane Jacob

You're very welcome. We wish you continued success. We'llbe there cheering you on ladies and gentlemen, Eric McElvenny.

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