Everything is getting real.
My bike has been shipped. I’m 99 percent packed. My pre-race pump-up playlist is complete. I swam for the last time at Shadow Cliffs this morning. I’ve practiced flat tire repairs. I haven’t tripped over my own two feet. I’ve checked into our flights. We leave tomorrow morning. It’s time for Ironman Coeur d’Alene and I can’t believe it.
A year and a half ago I decided to make this giant leap from runner to Ironman. Why I was propelled to make this jump had no logical explanation. I had no swimming background, and cycling appeared dangerous and I couldn’t even fathom clipping in – all I had was running. But truth be told, an Ironman has always been that shiny star that silently consumed a hidden part of my heart. Every time I heard that someone had done/was doing one, they immediately entranced me. They were pushing the human body to its ultimate limit, reaching new highs and lows to achieve something once thought impossible. There! That’s it! Seeing what you’re made of to achieve the seemingly impossible – what is more inspirational that that?
I said no to the idea for a quite a while and used my 60 hour work weeks and two and a half hour commute each day as a rational reason not to train. But after three years of this, I decided to this wasn’t the life I wanted to live. I needed to do this. I talked to my managers, explained my goal, figured out how to make it work and it was settled, I was starting a new journey because it turns out, I am indeed in charge of my own life. As we all are.
The journey began and the beginning wasn’t pretty. I gasped for air as I paddled through eight laps, I experienced crippling open water anxiety, I asked my husband how to pump air in my tires, I was terrified of clipping in, my confidence was rattled when I showed up to my first group ride and everyone was wearing Ironman jerseys, I was mocked for not having the right gear and looking like a Fred — I literally had no idea what I was doing.
At the time, I was embarrassed, nervous and well, just think of every adjective you could use to describe your first day of your freshman year in high school and that was me. But here’s the thing: when faced with trying experiences, you’ll find out more about yourself and the people around you than you could have ever expected.
Coach Paul put up with my crazies and helped build my skills and physical endurance to where I am now. Simon swam with me in the open water, talking me through my anxiety. Ilona, Jared, Tom and Ray spent entire weekends with me, making me laugh as we rode hour after hour. Carrie helped work my ankle out after I obliterated it. The entire Kinney Multisport team became my weekend family, swimming, cycling and running, helping push me to new levels. My friends didn’t abandon me even though I never saw them. Aron and Nicole always Gchatted to check in on me. My husband and real family put up with my absences and supported this time-consuming endeavor. And my dad, my dad is the truest form of inspiration that keeps me going every single day.
Without ever planning or realizing it, a group of people form that build this incredible support system, a net that will catch you when you fall. And if I’ve learned anything, it’s not a matter of if you fall, but when. I’m blessed they were there to catch me when I did.
Just days before Ironman Arizona, I fell, both literally and proverbially. As they wiped away my tears, I knew I had to get back on the saddle. After three months of physical therapy, I wasn’t about to quit and I re-dedicated myself to Ironman Couer d’Alene.
It’s been six months and we’ve come full circle. This morning’s swim had a significant amount of open water anxiety that seems to appear whenever I get nervous, and to say that I’m getting nervous would be an adequate assessment. The flurry of questions and fears about race day are never-ending: will I have an anxiety attack? Will I get a flat? Will I fuel correctly? Will my ankle act up? Will my GI system play well? Will I finish?
But as Coach Paul likes to remind me, right now I can’t waste energy on things that I can’t control. My mental game will either make or break me and I need to stay positive. With that, I look back on where I am now as compared to this time before IMAZ (prior to the injury), and it’s fascinating. I feel like a different athlete. My swim speed hasn’t improved, but my endurance has. I am so much more comfortable on the bike and have fallen madly in love with cycling. I also got in far more long runs this cycle as my knee injury wasn’t too much of an issue. I feel strong, excited and happiest when I’m cycling and running. Being out on the road fills my heart and it reminds me of my only mantra I’ve ever given myself, “This is who I am.”
My heart feels like it’s going to beat out of my chest and I haven’t even left California yet. The journey to Ironman hasn’t been easy, but it has transformed me into a new person and has helped me test my limits, discover new loves and honestly, discover who I am. As my dad always says, “It’s not always about the goal, but the journey.” This adventurous journey has been truly irreplaceable.
Now that we’re nearing the finish, I’m left wondering what it will be like to cross that finish line and hopefully hear my name called. Of course I have time goals that encourage my never-ending mind games. But deep down, I know that the goal here is to simply enjoy the day, what I’ve accomplished and to finish. That’s what the first Ironman is all about anyways, right?
The journey isn’t over just yet, but I can say this, if there’s something you want to do, then do it. Don’t be afraid to take risks, be courageous and go on adventures. But more importantly, do it with passion or not at all.
With that, I want to say thank you for being part of this journey. Your comments encourage me every day and always bring a smile to my face. If you want, you can track me here. I’m #129. I’ll be posting on Instagram and Twitter, and am contemplating having Chicken Face tweet for me. Thoughts?
Well, I guess this is see you later and Happy Running!