The Distilled Dollar household is dubbing this quarter the “Investing in Ourselves,” quarter. As part of that challenge, I’m finally investing in my triathlon training and I hired a coach! Despite 7 triathlon experiences, I’ve never had the gall for an Ironman (70.3 in my case), until now. (Insert plug for my new coach). Jk on that last sentence, but this post will describe financial lessons that helped me over the years, all deriving from 7 triathlon experiences.

I’ll share how I was inspired to save my first $10,000 and how I’ve picked up financial lessons from beating my best times and from failing to cross the finish line.

Money isn’t pretty, so let’s dive right in:

The Race to Save Money

Investing should be seen as a general term, so we need to view investing our money and investing our time as two separate things.

I learned that lesson HARD on my first race experience.


I rode the race using a mountain bike…on Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive (that’s where the bike path is).

Save money, but don’t save money at the expense of your time (and dignity).

— This is where I’d insert a picture, but the race expected me to pay money for pictures of me sweating and crying. No thanks! 🙂 —

The Second Race & Sophomore Slumps

Ever hear of the Sophomore Slump?

Well, I’m happy to tell you it is complete bull.

When it comes to saving money, my first $1,000 came over 10 months of savings. I ended up losing all of it in 2 months, but the next $1,000 came in only 2 months.

The second time around is always easier, even if failure occurred the first time.

That’s how it is with money too.

Don’t be afraid to shoot for a higher goal. In the $1,000 case above, the 2nd time around I was able to save $10,000 in the time it took me to save $1,000 the first time around. I know I would not have had the confidence to shoot for a big goal, without having first achieved the smaller goal along the way, so structure your goals to allow yourself to hit the benchmarks.

By setting myself up to hit benchmarks along the way, you will be able to tweak or refine your plan as you get closer to your goal.

Failing to Cross the Finish Line

One recent race experience sticks out because I failed to cross the finish line. I blamed it on the gray zone.

The Gray Zone – aka Distraction Town

The gray zone is where all financial plans go to die.

If you’ve ever been stuck thinking about your family while at work, or thinking about work while with your family at dinner, then you know what the gray zone is.

The gray zone is that awkward middle ground that sucks away our energy from what we are currently doing. In the examples above, we owe it to our work and our families and our communities, to be there 100% when we are there.

Easier said than done, of course.

But that’s what I’ve learned during my training – the gray zone will kill us. I can’t be cycling on the bike for 2 hours and thinking about last week’s presentation at work. I find that type of thinking takes away from my health as I’m not able to dial into the workout.

If you find yourself in the gray zone, my one tip is identify the triggers.

See what brings you into the gray zone.

It might be opening up email, or checking your phone, or seeing pictures of certain friends on social media.

For me, I’ve spent the last few months identifying and either eliminating or replacing triggers. I can only begin to tell you the value this has done in my life, and it even applies to the little things – such as having a clean work environment, or having my gym shoes next to me in the mornings.

Final Note

As a final note, in the race to save money, the real judge is going to be you. Your results will be yours and while others might care, you’re the one who has everything on the line. Don’t let others distract you, and keep the focus where it ought to be.

Have you picked up on similar life lessons from your race to save more money? What have you discovered about pursuing financial independence or trying to rapidly increase your savings rate?


P.S. I’m writing this post today from my hotel room as I’m now between 3 different conferences – one on taxes, one on financial bloggers, and one on business development. Talk about investing in yourself!

Naturally, our savings rate will absolutely not hit near 70% this quarter in response to the, “investing in ourselves,” approach, but we are committed to our Race to Save Money. By hitting nearly a 70% savings rate on Q3, we feel we can let our purse strings loose (just a bit) before the end of the year. We are still on track to save 40-60% more than last year — from 50k to 70-80k — and we will keep you posted as we continue our Race to Save Money.

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