One of the beauties of HIKE for Mental Health is anyone can be involved and contribute, regardless of how big or small the involvement or contribution is. For 29-year-old Cato LaCroix of Holliston Massachusetts, his efforts have been enormous. On September 17, 2022, the Appalachian Trail alumnus swam 2.4 miles, then biked 112 miles, then ran a full marathon to complete one of the most prestigious endurance events in the world, an Ironman triathlon. When all was said and done, Cato finished the race in a whopping eleven hours, thirty-nine minutes, and twenty-six seconds. He ran the marathon in his HIKE for Mental Health shirt, and raised over $2,600 for the organization.
Though the feat of completing an Ironman is once-in-a-lifetime for many, this was no first for Cato. Cato competed in sports in high school and college, including baseball and football. Once baseball ended, he felt he needed something extra to fuel his competitive drive, which led him to competing in 5k races. This was the “steppingstone,” as he calls it, to ultimately thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, doing an 100-mile ultramarathon in 2020, and completing several triathlons, including Ironman Lake Placid in 2019, a half Ironman, and most recently, Ironman Maryland.
I asked Cato what it was like to train for an Ironman.
“The process and the journey which leads to the accomplishment of the goal is the toughest part. Staying disciplined each day, doing the work when the motivation wears off, and the consistency to achieve the long term, delayed gratification goal is the tough part.”
Being someone who struggles with mental health like so many others, Cato admitted this is a big part of why he takes on the challenge of Ironmans. He is happy to know he is not alone in these struggles.
“I raise money for mental health so people can learn what is the best way for them not to suffer from their thoughts and enjoy life in the present.”
As Cato continues his journey of inspiration, he hopes to see his aspirations spread in a “domino” effect.
“I think that if I can just help one person, that person can help someone else, and a domino effect will occur until that one person turns into one hundred. It makes me happy to be able to push the first domino over.”
As a New Englander, Cato grew up hiking in the timeless White Mountains of New Hampshire. In 2018, he fulfilled his dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail.
“I would definitely recommend a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail to others. It is a journey of self-exploration that will be a catalyst for your evolution as a human being.”
Before completing Ironman Maryland, Cato appropriately studied Environment, Development, and Sustainability in Thailand and earned his master’s degree. He was grateful for the opportunity to go to school there. While there, he took advantage of the opportunity to visit temples and speak to monks about mental health. These conversations piqued a new interest in practicing separation of self from emotion, something Cato contributed to his ability to genuinely enjoy his last Ironman, instead of simply pushing through. And his enjoyment is evident: if you look at any of the pictures of Cato from his Ironman, you’ll see him donning a smile.
“For me, happiness and gratitude push me through the adversity that I face and gets me to the finish line.”
In 2023, Cato would like to do Ironman Lake Placid for the second time and incorporate the new things he has learned. He hopes to fundraise for HIKE for Mental Health again.
It is not too late to make a donation in honor of Cato’s accomplishment. Here is the link.
Thank you, Cato, for your amazing efforts. They have made a huge difference.