MATTHEW REIBENSTEIN is the founder and president of Royal Homes in Conroe, Texas. A Houston native, he is currently the president of the Montgomery County Builders and Developers Division as well as a Board of Director member of the Greater Houston Builders Association. He also serves on the Advisory Board of Directors for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), southeast Texas region, and is the leader of North Houston Tri4Him. He earned a degree in civil engineering from Texas A&M and is the husband of Katy and father of son, Paxton, and daughter, Brinlee.
What inspires you about triathlon?
The reason I stay in triathlon has to do with the health aspect and to inspire other people. When I watch someone in their fist race, that’s inspiring to me. There’s something about helping someone just because I know how hard it was for me.
On my first triathlon, I was 307 pounds and I had already lost 37 pounds. I remember my first race in McKinney (Texas). I was the second-to-last guy to finish the race. This is coming from a guy who is now regularly on the podium in my division.
The last half mile I kept thinking how much I hated it. I was cussing mad. One of the winners actually ran out to me the last half to quarter mile and ran in with me, encouraging me and telling me to keep going. About the last hundred yards or so he jetted off so I could get the glory. To this day I don’t know who he was. I don’t know his name. I’ll never forget the feeling that maybe I’ll be able to do that for someone some day.
Describe your first IRONMAN.
I had a blast at my first IRONMAN and TriDot was the reason for that. The night before, I started getting nervous. I looked at my training log and I looked at how many miles I’d biked – around 3,000. I had run several hundred miles. And swam a crazy number of miles. And I thought to myself, “I’m as ready for this as I’ll ever be. What else could I have done?”
I felt great. I knew I felt great. I had an absolute blast. They take a picture of you right after you finish and I was smiling ear to ear. I went home thinking, “How much fun was that? Let’s do that again!”
Has triathlon affected the way you look at life?
It’s a sport similar to golf, in that you’re not out there to beat someone else. You’re there to beat yourself. It does a lot for you outside of triathlon. Triathlon’s shown me that I can do just about anything.
To take a guy who’s almost 350 pounds to someone who’s on the podium of a sprint triathlon, people said, “That’s crazy.” Then I told them I was going to do an IRONMAN and they said, “Good luck with that!” It teaches you a lot more about life, about being a dad, and about running a business than you’ll ever know.
Do you train with a team?
Jeff started Tri4Him with three other guys in his garage. It’s just a cool group. I looked into other training groups and Tri4Him was the only one that didn’t require you to have a certain time, be a certain speed, or win races. They accept you because they want you there.
Of course, when I found the club I was still at 300 pounds. They were the only group that welcomed me with open arms. It’s a group who says, “You’re accepted for who you are. Come train with us.”
What racing goals do you have?
They’re always time related. And if I don’t have a great day – some days your body doesn’t do what your heart wants it to do – that just happens. Those days you change your mentality. I used to get mad and frustrated. Now I look for someone else to help. I don’t let it get to me. Someone is out there struggling and I can help them and be the one who runs out to them and helps them finish the race. There is always someone having a worse race than you.
In the sprint races, I look for the guys who are 300 pounds, the ones you can tell this is their first race. I look for the person to whom I can say, “Hey, you’re here. That’s step number one.” I want to be that for someone else.
How have you incorporated triathlon in your life?
Honestly, in 2009 I didn’t think I’d still be doing triathlon in 2016. I thought it would be a one or two-time thing. It’s become a lifestyle. You hear that a lot with triathlon. Because I’ve changed my physique and I’ve done so much, TriDot is a no-brainer to me.
This is a sport that you can really enjoy at an amateur level. You can still enjoy it without having to win. Just from a health and friendship and camaraderie perspective, you can enjoy it. Runners have figured that out. I think triathletes are also.
It’s funny how God has you do things you never thought you could do, because in 2009 triathlon was not on my list of things to have done in my life. And since then it has become a real passion – that would really be the right word for it. And whether I have a great race, a not-so-great race, or maybe I’m not even doing an IRONMAN, I love to reach out to people and ask them just to try it, just like my friend originally challenged me.