Take 10 seconds and think about your deepest fears. Now, what if I told you I’d provide ~450 of the most supportive, intelligent, and resourceful individuals to help you face one of those fears. Would you do it? For me, it was a no-brainer. Even though I was deeply afraid of swimming, especially in open water, I was going to attempt an Ironman distance triathlon with only 10 months to train.

For those that are fortunate enough to not know what an Ironman is, let me briefly explain. It’s a 2.4-mile open-water swim, 112.6-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run—all completed back-to-back and within a 17-hour cutoff. It’s the king of endurance sports events, and I wanted to conquer it, mainly because I never thought I could. If I could do this, I thought there was no stopping what I could do—personally or professionally. Thanks to classmate Aaron Hager, who was after the same goal and had already signed up for Ironman Mont-Tremblant, I knew it would be much easier not facing it alone. 

Danny Auerbach and Aaron Hager at a training event in Pinehurst, North Carolina
Me (left) with Aaron at a triathlon event

I took away hundreds of lessons in pursuit of this goal, but here are my top three.

1. Never forget the power of team.

Team Fuqua is much more than a saying, and nothing made this clearer than during triathlon training. I had classmates who were my “coaches.” People like Ali, Sloane, Aaron, Mateo, Grant, Brandon, and Joey spent weeks with me at the beginning of training to help get my fundamentals down and confidence up. I had training partners like Lydia, Giacomo, Nikko, Max, and Danielle who spent 50+ hours with me to train, including the weekend we all did an Olympic distance triathlon together.

My training partners and I completed an Olympic distance triathlon in Pinehurst, North Carolina
My training partners and I completed an Olympic distance triathlon in Pinehurst, North Carolina

On top of that, I also had hundreds of supporters who constantly asked me how training was going and if they could do anything to help. I have so much to be grateful for from my two years at Fuqua, but one of the biggest was being surrounded by amazing people who made me better every day. My two years at Fuqua confirmed that if you can find people to push you, you will be set up to tackle any goal imaginable.

2. Mix pain with pleasure.

In pursuing any big goal, you’ll likely get to a point where you want to throw in the towel. The ‘newness’ factor has gone away, opportunity costs are rising, and you are starting to question why you’re even pursuing this goal. This happened to me in early June—with about 12 weeks left in training—when my body was starting to shut down. I had injuries in my shoulder, groin, and both knees. My body was asking me to stop, and my mind was starting to ask a similar question. 

Instead of giving up, I leaned into what gave me pleasure: relationships and communication with friends. I asked others to join me for rides (special shoutout to Enrique who crossed state lines with me and biked 75 miles in Wisconsin), and I called friends while I ran to check in on their post-Fuqua experiences. This forced me to keep my heart rate down and not push the pace while my body healed. Whether my former classmates knew it or not, they were getting me through the toughest weeks of training. I’ve always realized that conversations with friends and family are my outlets when things get tough or go wrong. Lesson learned: make sure you identify joyful outlets so you can rely on them when challenges come your way. 

3. Don’t forget to say thank you.

The Ironman Mount Tremblant race director once said, “No one gets to the finish line on their own.” For me, this was especially true, and this blog is a thank you more than anything else. It is a reminder of the power of amazing people that were there for me in good times and bad. The people that noticed me when I was struggling and checked in. The people that went the extra mile for me (literally) when no one was looking, solely to help me accomplish my goal. While many people contributed to making my Ironman journey possible, the Fuqua community holds a special place in my heart. Team Fuqua made me much more than an MBA—it made me an Ironman with the belief that anything is possible.

Daytime MBA alumnus Danny Auerbach poses with sign that reads "thank you team Fuqua" after finishing his first Ironman competition
Me after finishing Ironman Mont-Tremblant in August 2023