Stories about how hard things build stronger humans who have more fun with guests from pro sports, politics, business, tech, journalism, the military and more. Resilience, grit, mental health, high performance, being human + more. Host Andrew Vontz has spent more than 25 years telling the stories of the world's top performers, brands & leaders. He's an entrepreneur, former Strava executive, journalist (bylines: LA Times, Outside Magazine, Rolling Stone, more) & advises businesses & leaders on high-impact narrative design, reputation management & strategic communications.
Michael Marckx - Belgian Waffle Ride Founder
1:03:01Michael Marckx is the founder and CEO of the Belgian Waffle Ride, one of the biggest and most influential multi-surface, gravelish series in the world. He’s a prime mover behind what has become today’s booming gravel scene and wow, this guy has lived what would be 20 lives the average human. We talk everything that went into the birth of the BWR including Michael’s time as CEO of a publicly traded company, his other career as a professional musician, his other other career as a professional triathlete during the golden age of the sport when Kenny Souza had unrivaled hair and Mark Allen and Dave Scott were battling it out for the Ironman and Michael’s childhood in an environment where running marathons when you were 12 was normal. Most importantly, we talk about why you should pick something hard to do with friends and go do it. That’s what I did last fall when I did the BWR Kansas Wafer with the No Pressure No Diamonds crew and got a taste of the Belgian Waffle magic then swore I would never go back and am now going back. Choose the Hard Way is the show about how hard things build stronger humans who have more fun. Please help more people find this podcast. To do that, just hit subscribe and rate the show five stars on Apple Podcasts or Spotify and share this episode with someone you care about. We are in year six of Choose the Hard Way and it’s going to be a big one with some amazing guests and the chance for us to spend some time together as a community at a few gatherings and live events. To make it all happen I’m open to mission-aligned sponsors I’d be proud to share with my audience directly supporting the show this season. If you or someone you know have a company that wants to reach the high-achieving, high-influence, highly networked people who listen to this show and do amazing things, then send a DM to @hardwaypod or email us at [email protected]. I’m also ready to retire the Giant TCX cyclocross bike I’ve been using to race gravel since 2015 and I’m ready for a new ride. If you’re in the industry and work for a company that makes an amazing bike you’d like me to race and talk about this year, holler at me and let’s make it happen. Finally, I’m going to have big news to share some time in the next few episodes about the business I started that I’ve quietly been working on for the past 18 months. We are getting ready to publicly release our product and I want to give you all the opportunity to be among the first to get to try it. Go to choosethehardway.com to sign up for the newsletter and if there’s someone you think would make a great guest, DM @hardwaypod or send an email to [email protected]. To learn more about BWR go to @belgianwaffleride and you can find Michael gram’ing @ibemmx.
Joe Goettl: Gravel Pro Cyclist x YouTuber on Making it as a Privateer
1:02:04Joe Goettl grew up working on a farm, almost made it as a pro snowboarder and went deep into competitive running--until he hit an endless string of injuries that doctors said would end his athletic career. Here we are in 2023 and Joe is a rising YouTuber & pro cyclist knocking on the door of gravel greatness. During the week, Joe trains, coaches athletes and works a heavy schedule in retail to fund the costs of his gravel program that his sponsors don’t cover. On the weekends, Joe travels the nation to race and has come within spitting distance of podiums at gravel majors like the Belgian Waffle Ride Utah. Hailing from the land of sky blue waters, Joe is a true privateer pursuing the American gravel dream, cool as a mountain stream. This is the story of gravel minus sprinter vans, $400,000 motor homes, World Tour pedigrees and a marketing team manufacturing a grassroots and raw approach to the sport. This is the gritty and raw approach to the sport. You can find Joe @jgoettl2.0 on Instagram. Watch on YouTube Sign up for the Hard Way Newsletter - - - - - - - - - - Choose The Hard Way Website | Instagram Andrew Vontz LinkedIn
Kimo Seymour - Building the LifeTime Grand Prix + Endurance in Life, Business & Sport
1:06:44One day you wake up and a thing called the Life Time Grand Prix exists and two years later it’s all anyone who follows pro cycling in America can talk about. How did we get here? And what’s next? Today, we find out. Kimo Seymour is the Senior Vice President of Media and Events at Life Time and the creator of the Life Time Grand Prix. He’s also an endurance sports overachieve with 11 IRONMAN finishes and nine smoking fast times at the Leadville 100 mountain bike race to his credit. Life Time has transformed the level of competition in offroad racing, birthed an entirely new hybrid pro racing series that mixes disciplines in a way we’ve never seen before in pro cycling and has created a content and coverage flywheel that is turning heads. The Grand Prix brings together an exclusive group of professional cyclists who compete in a series of legendary and soon to be legendary mountain bike and gravel races. In the process, they’ve attracted top talent from across all cycling disciplines and created a vibe you won’t find anywhere else in pro cycling. Kimo and his team have been instrumental in making it happen and Alex Howes plays an unexpected and crucial role. We go deep. We go kiting. We talk sepsis, kiting and epic feats of endurance. It’s everything we’ve dreamed of and more. Kimo has been one of my most requested guests and I’m excited to share this interview with you. We’re getting close to 200 5-star ratings and whether you’re a long-time listener or a new one, please take a moment and help me bring you more awesome guests you want to hear. When you hit 5 stars, you help make it happen. Thank you. Choose the Hard Way is the podcast about how hard things build stronger humans who have more fun. I love hearing from you so if you want to let me know what you think of this episode or who you’d like to hear from next, DM me @hardwaypod. To learn more about the Life Time Grand Prix, go to @lifetimegrandprix. Watch on YouTube Sign up for the Hard Way Newsletter - - - - - - - - - - Choose The Hard Way Website | Instagram Andrew Vontz LinkedIn
Alexis Skarda - Pro Cyclist, National Champion, Music Producer + DJ
1:12:05Alexis Skarda is a professional cyclist who rides for the Santa Cruz HtSqd and is the US Marathon National Cross-Country Mountain Bike Champion, a Lifetime Grand Prix racer, an emerging electronic music artist and she’s a formidable force on the 1s and 2s as a DJ as well as a podium threat at any gravel race she enters. I love to produce electronic music, I love to DJ and I love to ride bikes, so I’m really excited to share today’s episode with you. As a journalist, I’ve had the privilege of interviewing and writing about artists like The Crystal Method, Daft Punk and Chris Cornell. And from time to time I got to write about and ride with world class musicians who loved to ride bikes like Tim Commerford, the bass player for Audioslave and Rage Against the Machine. But I’ve never written about a high-level pro cyclist who also puts out incredible music. I’m excited to get to do that in this interview. If you’d like to learn more about Alexis and hear some of her music go to @alexisskarda on Instagram. Watch on YouTube Sign up for the Hard Way Newsletter - - - - - - - - - - Choose The Hard Way Website | Instagram Andrew Vontz LinkedIn
Drew Dillman & Dylan Johnson - Gravel Racing 90210 -- The Lifetime Grand Prix, BWR and Beyond
1:24:57Dylan Johnson and Drew Dillman join @vontz to talk about pro gravel racing 90210 and the fun they had battling for 17th place at the final race of the Lifetime Grand Prix series, Big Sugar down in Bentonville, Arkansas, home of Walmart and the global epicenter of competitive cycling. We get into the past, present and future of pro gravel, why community matters, especially if you’re going to travel somewhere to compete, and more. Dylan and Drew are ½ of the Bonk Bros podcast, superstar YouTubers and run Ignition Coaching together. Choose the Hard Way is the podcast about how doing hard things is fun and builds stronger humans. On Episode 100 we talked about finding something hard to do with friends and letting it rip. That’s the core of the storied friendship and rivalry between Dylan and Drew. And so can you. What are you getting after next and who are you doing it with? Thanks for listening and please take a moment to rate this show 5 stars on apple podcasts, spotify or wherever you listen. Find Drew @raddadizzle and Dylan @dylanjawnson on social. Watch on YouTube Sign up for the Hard Way Newsletter - - - - - - - - - - Choose The Hard Way Website | Instagram Andrew Vontz LinkedIn Subscribe: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher
Joe De Sena Spartan Race Founder & CEO - Exclusive: Near Death Wipeouts in Life & Business
56:16Joe De Sena is the founder and CEO of Spartan and creator of the Spartan Race and the infamous Death Race. After he created a hugely successful Wall Street trading firm, Joe left finance behind in 2001 to build a new life and a new business from a farm in rural Vermont. His goal was to change 100 million lives through experiences like those he had competing in Ironmans, 300-mile runs and adventure races around the world. Joe has created a lot of success, a lot of wealth and a lot of transformation. And there’s more to the story. In this interview, for the first time he shares about the financial catastrophe the Spartan Race faced during the pandemic, the brushes with death he has had in his sporting endeavors, why he continually seeks new challenges and how he deals with one of the most difficult challenges in the human experience--getting someone to use the off button on a phone. Thank you to my friend Randy Hetrick, the founder and chairman of the human performance company TRX and now founder and CEO of OutFit for connecting me to Joe to make this interview happen. You can learn more about Joe and Spartan Race at www.jodesena.com and @spartan on social. Watch on YouTube Sign up for the Hard Way Newsletter - - - - - - - - - - Choose The Hard Way Website | Instagram Andrew Vontz LinkedIn Subscribe: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher
@tristantakephoto on Racing 800 Miles Across Morocco’s Atlas Mountains & Selling Everything to Start the Life He Wanted
59:00Tristan Cardew, aka @tristantakephoto, sold everything and moved from Sydney, Australia to Girona, Spain to build a life that revolved around cycling and visual storytelling. Five years later, he’s racing gravel and road at a high level and has built the creative career he dreamed about making happen. His YouTube channel, TristanTakeVideo, has more than three million views and is built around training with Tour de France stage winners, interviewing the world’s best riders and going behind the scenes with teams at the top level of the sport. Tristan is also a standout documentary filmmaker and when I saw his self-shot doc about racing the Atlas Mountain Race, one of the toughest bikepacking tests on the planet, I knew I had to have him on Choose the Hard Way. The race is more than 800 miles long with 65,000 feet of climbing across remote and absolutely brutal terrain. Completing it is a feat. Making a compelling self-shot documentary while racing it is a next-level achievement. I was excited to have this chance to talk to Tristan about his path as a creative, the story behind his Atlas Race doc, explore the question of how much is enough, and to get a preview of his upcoming documentary about racing the 466-mile Badlands gravel race in Spain. Find Tristan on Instagram @tristantakephoto and check out his YouTube channel, TristanTakeVideo. Choose the Hard Way is a podcast about how doing hard things is fun and builds stronger humans. If you haven’t done this already, now would be a great time to help me help you. To do that, just hit subscribe and rate the show five stars on Apple Podcasts or Spotify and share this episode with someone you care about. Go to choosethehardway.com to sign up for the newsletter and shoot me a DM @hardwaypod or send an email to [email protected] to let me know what you dig in this conversation with Tristan. I love hearing from you and appreciate everyone who has reached out, keep it coming! Watch on YouTube Sign up for the Hard Way Newsletter - - - - - - - - - - Choose The Hard Way Website | Instagram Andrew Vontz LinkedIn Subscribe: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher
#100 - Hard Things Build Stronger Humans Who Have More Fun - Andrew Vontz x @Blakeoftoday
58:21Six years ago, I launched Choose the Hard Way to inspire more people to embrace the idea that doing hard things builds stronger humans who have more fun. My guests are among the very best in the world at what they do and I’ve been lucky that they’ve graciously shared their stories here. To celebrate 100 episodes, I’m doing something different and sharing more of my story--a story about a friendship that has pushed me to do hard things for 15 years and counting. This podcast isn’t about hacks, tricks and shortcuts. It’s about the powerful things that happen when you choose the hard way--and I hope my guest’s stories inspire you to go do hard things with people you love and have some fun. That’s the best part of life and it’s available to everyone willing to answer the call to adventure. I have a request: please pick something challenging to do, invite a friend to do it with you and leave a comment or shoot a DM to @hardwaypod on social and tell me how it went. Joining me today is @blakeoftoday. In the past year, Blake has become one of the most popular storytellers on Instagram because of his distinctive storytelling style focused on family, fatherhood and jiu-jitsu. He’s the host of the Grappling with Fatherhood podcast, the author of the Blakeoftoday substack and one of the only humans I know who organically grew his Instagram following from less than a thousand followers to nearly 200k followers in a year. Blake has joined me on this podcast in the past to deconstruct our path to podium finishes at the gravel race now known as the Unbound 100 in 2014 and 2015. Today, we’re talking about how our chance meeting while volunteering at a shelter for unhoused people in downtown Los Angeles led us to start doing workouts at a park in Silverlake that were brutal and would have been total nonsense if they hadn’t been so much fun--and how that led to friendship, rivalry and both of us pushing each other to go bigger and bigger. And so can you. Choose the Hard Way is the podcast about how doing hard things builds stronger humans who have more fun. Please help more people find this podcast. To do that, just hit subscribe and rate the show five stars on Apple Podcasts or Spotify and share this episode with a friend. We are 100 episodes deep and I really appreciate all of your support. Go to choosethehardway.com to sign up for the newsletter and if there’s someone you think would make a great guest, DM @hardwaypod. Choose The Hard Way is a Big Truck Production. Anthony Palmer at Palm Tree Pod Co is the producer and editor and Emily Miles is head of digital and marketing. Hekla Projects founder Jeffrey Nebolini is the world-renowned designer behind our brand identity and the Choose the Hard Way logo. The content for this show is created by @vontz.
Pete Stetina: the OG Gravel Pro on Racing while Parenting, Where Gravel is Headed & Exiting the World Tour to Enter a Van
1:11:57Pete Stetina grew up in a famous cycling family and became a highly accomplished pro road racer who raced the Giro D’Italia four times, the Tour de France twice and the Vuelta Espana twice. When he started dabbling in gravel racing, in 2019, he was still doing 80 race days a year in the World Tour while winning iconic events like the original recipe Belgian Waffle Ride. That’s when he pulled the ripcord on what most cyclists would consider a dream career to pursue new frontiers on the dirt full time. Pete is a big character in the grand story of gravel racing and has animated the many conversations about the present and future of the sport while nabbing top results. Pete has been interviewed and written about ad infinitum and there’s a lot more to his story than what you’ve heard so far and have seen on social media. I caught up with Pete a few days after the first ever Gravel National Championship, which he crashed out of early on. I’m excited to bring this conversation to you. It covers a lot of new ground and I hope it gives you a more dimensionalized look at Pete as a human being, parent and competitor. You can find Pete on Instagram @pstetina. Watch on YouTube Sign up for the Hard Way Newsletter - - - - - - - - - - Choose The Hard Way Website | Instagram Andrew Vontz LinkedIn Subscribe: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher
Vince Murdock: Team Alpha Male MMA fighter on Brain Surgery, The Ultimate Fighter & Building an Inclusive Cycling Community
53:57Vince Murdock is a professional mixed martial arts fighter who came up from difficult circumstances and worked his entire life to get into the UFC. When he finally got the call, a pre-fight brain scan showed he had Moyamoya disease and a life-threatening arterial blockage. Following brain surgery that involved removing a quarter of his skull, Vince’s perspective on life radically shifted. He became a father, got into cycling to rehab from surgery and formed an inclusive community, the Enjoy Cycling Club, to counter the elitism and exclusion that’s commonplace in competitive cycling. Vince trains at Team Alpha Male under the supervision of multiple former UFC title belt holders and champions including Cody No Love Gabrandt and team founder and owner The California Kid, Urijah Faber. Vince has a unique perspective on life and deep wisdom from the hardships he has persevered through both before and after his surgery. He is a remarkable human and I am deeply grateful for what he shares in this interview. It really moved me. I’m dedicating this episode to my good friend Aaron Burby and his friends and family. Aaron suddenly died from complications related to undiagnosed Moyamoya disease in 2020. He has been with me every day since then and he always will be. Like Vince, Aaron made the people around him feel loved and special, he was a gifted community builder, went full gas after his goals in life and expected the people he loved to give everything to what they valued. Special thanks to past Choose the Hard Way guest Derek Teel from Dialed Health for connecting me to Vince. This is a special conversation and I’m grateful to be able to share it with you all. Vince Murdock Instagram Watch on YouTube Sign up for the Hard Way Newsletter - - - - - - - - - - Choose The Hard Way Website | Instagram Andrew Vontz LinkedIn Subscribe: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher