Some things I learned while becoming an Ironman:
Break challenges in to smaller pieces. Yes, 70.3 miles sounds like (absolutely is!) a huge goal. However, swimming a mile is doable. Cycling 56 miles is what I had done on Sundays for months. Running 13.1- well, I already had two half marathons under my belt, what's a third? This is not to discount the huge physical and mental feat that completing this race is, but instead, illustrate how you can break down at least mental blocks by thinking of the race differently than one long road. This works well in real life too, and it's how I break down my challenges and reach for my dreams- one step, stroke, or pedal turn at a time until I reach that finish line.
Fuel your body and it will take you there. The hours you spend training for this kind of race are important- you are getting your body used to the idea of working strenuously for a continued chunk of time. However, as important as building endurance is, it's pointless without learning how to fuel. While training, I got used to gels, and even broke my fear of eating while working out (due to getting just plain HUNGRY on long bike rides) and learned to eat granola bars and bananas as well. Unfortunately, I still relied a lot on gels, which, while PowerBar gels are pretty tasty, and they works like a charm, they are not real food. The race experience took me almost 10 hours from the drive there to the drive home, and you need more than a few bananas and gels to live. I finished the race feeling great and all, but as soon as I sat down in the car to ride to El Arroyo for some victory Tex-Mex, I got nauseous. I ended up throwing up before I could eat, thankfully not on my new shiny medal! When I begin training for a full Ironman, or when I race my next half, I will be sitting down with a nutrition coach and getting a good handle on exactly how many calories I need and finding good, wholesome ways to achieve those so this doesn't happen again.
Things look a lot less intimidating when you take on the impossible. I had never run a triathlon in my life before I started this journey. The most I had done was a half marathon, and although that was awesome, it wasn't the biggest or toughest or longest race out there, and I can't stand not having gone all the way to the top. However, Ironman races are scary to think about for so many. My advice? Just do it. Break down those fears and challenges in to digestible chunks and take it on. Not a good swimmer? Sign up for some lessons or find a friend who is and learn the basics, then build your yards. New to cycling? Just keep pedaling- it's easier than you think to build your mileage, and cycling is so relaxing and fun because although it's hard, it's easy to feel like you've accomplished so much faster than running. Then, sign up for group rides, challenges, charity rides, etc. and put tires on the ground.Not a runner? Sign up for a 5k, then a 10k, then a half marathon, then keep going! I tell you what, the thought of a 26.2 mile marathon was so scary this time last year. Now, I'm 16 weeks away from my first one and, although it'll be hard, I am not afraid. Not to be all Nike on everyone, but just do it!
It is a beautiful feeling to inspire those around you. Even though I kept this blog the whole time- mainly to document my time with Chuck and the struggle of those with ALS, I never knew if there were people really reading it or paying attention to what I was doing. I know my boyfriend understands what I went through to get across the finish line, because he and I sacrificed a lot of time while I trained, getting up early on weekends for long runs and rides, being gone for work and then working out, only to have to come home, shower, and go to bed because my work schedule is so hectic some weeks. However, it wasn't just him who noticed. I have had so many people reach out, both in person and on social media, and tell me how inspired they are by what I achieved. It is the culture of endurance sports- one person sees others crossing their finish lines and thinks, "it's time for me to do that," and so on. I am so proud to have done that for other people. I don't think they're nuts enough to go for 70.3 (yet! you will and you should!) but they're going to take steps and reach goals. My boyfriend is even playing with the idea of trying a half marathon, and I can't wait to help him train for it!! He's probably just tired of having to get up just as early as me on race days and not getting a medal to show for it. :)
The experience was truly awesome and life changing . I lost 20 pounds, got in the best shape of my life, and used my body to take my soul above and beyond what I'd ever thought I could. I stood in line at athlete check in and saw those around me who were veterans, and almost all of them had the Ironman logo tattooed on their body somewhere. I thought that was cool, but didn't really imagine getting one. As soon as we were driving home once I was done, I completely understood the draw. Once you hang up your medal, unpack your transition bag, and finish that last good session of foam rolling, the race is done. Your accomplishment and your hard work aren't as apparent any more- heck, you have to wash that race shirt eventually, and wearing it more than a day in a row is weird. But a tattoo, something you can look at and remind yourself every day what you, your body, and your mind can do, that's something that doesn't go away. Two days later I had one, and I love it. I got it in light colors, small(ish) and on the inside of my wrist so that I can see it, but from far away it is not noticeable. It's personal, it's for me, and it's only half-way done, because, after all of this, am still only half way there. Bring on 140.6 in 2015!!
|It's not really this bright! It's just fresh still, but I love it! Done by Thomas at Pigment Dermagraphics here in Austin, TX. Go see them if you need ink- they rock!|
A Photo Essay of the Race (ie: pictures say more than words!)
|My one-man cheer section for the first 2/3 of the race. Love you so much!|
|Getting ready to swim. My wave was the 13th wave, so we had a lot of waiting to do before we got started. I spent the time trying to warn people who aren't from Texas about sticker-burrs in the grass!|
|3 hours later! Bryce caught my at mile 55 coming in to the convention center. The last 10 miles were the longest, but I was feeling good! No flats or bike troubles, plenty of fuel and hydration, and good cloud cover the whole way.|
|I drank that whole 1.5 liter bag, plus a bottle of Nuun, yet never had to pee. That's a lot of sweating!|
|Lap 1 of the 3 lap run course! My calves were screaming for the first few miles, but I paused to stretch and got them back to normal before the second lap.|
|High five for my smallest (yet biggest!) fan, Thomas!|
|Lap 3- so close, yet so far! You can tell by my face, I'm ready to be done!|
|Entering the arena, finish line in sight!|
|Hook 'em, Horns sign up high- had to get a good finish photo!|
|Done! Time on the clock is gun time, not my finish time.|
|Thank you so much to my friends for coming to support me! The run was the hardest part, and having you there to cheer for me made is so much better! I'm sorry I puked at dinner, but at least it wasn't in front of you.|
|My finish times! I only beat 12 girls in my age group, but you know what? I am cool with that. I wasn't dead last (or dead, period!) and I felt amazing! It's all about crossing your finish line, and nobody else's!|
I'm crowd-sourcing funds for the $650 entry fee for the Ironman 140.6 if anyone wants to help out!!
Thanks for everything- time for marathon training.