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Attitude is EVERYTHING! - What I Learned From Ironman Part III

Monday, September 16, 2013

One of the really cool parts of the Ironman for me was having Mike Reilly doing the announcing. Reilly has been the “Voice of Ironnman” for the past 25 years, announcing the World Championships in Kona every year as well as over one hundred other Ironman races. As one article on Reilly said “to some athletes, hearing Reilly say those four, iconic words is just about as important as making it to the finish line. When his voice booms “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” over that microphone, lifelong dreams are realized.”

I know that as I did my training, imagining that moment was incredibly motivating and emotional for me. And when it actually happened, it was magical - I never imagined that I would cross to the sounds of “I come from a Land Down Under” by Men At Work (maybe I’ll need to add that one to my running mix) – but having Reilly say those words and then quickly mention that I’m a mother of four was a moment that I’ll probably replay in my mind for the rest of my life.

So, having Reilly make an appearance at the Athlete’s Banquet a couple of days before the race was a huge treat. I looked forward to hearing words of wisdom from this man who had been at the finish line to see tens of thousands of athletes complete their journeys. I’m sure that over the past quarter-decade he has seen it all. When he spoke, this is the advice that Reilly gave. “During the race a lot of things will happen that you can’t control. But there is one thing that you can control. Your attitude.” That’s it. Seriously? Have a good attitude? I was left feeling a little let down that his advice was so basic. Where was the magic secret to finishing the Ironman?

As it turns out, that WAS the magic secret. In the weeks leading up to the race I have to admit that I was somewhere between scared and terrified depending on the day. Sure I had done a lot of training, but was it enough? I could go through a long list of things that I could have, maybe should have done better. More running. Longer bike rides. More hills. Spinning over the winter. More swimming. More, more, more….

But on race day, the reality was that I had to work with whatever level of fitness and proficiency that I had built. Instead of focusing on all the things I could have done better, I chose to focus on what I had done well. Training on the actual bike course. Increasing my comfort level swimming in open water. Improving my running technique. And most importantly, coming in to the race un-injured and feeling physically well. And I thought about everything that I had learned from endurance races over the past few years. How to eat during the race. How to pace myself. How to come up with a race plan and then adapt it to changing conditions.

During the race itself I tried to keep the positive attitude going. I smiled whenever I could. I thanked every volunteer and cheering spectator I saw (and learned that the more energy you give out, the more you get back). When the going got rough I concentrated on what was not hurting (my feet are killing me, but wow, my knees are really holding up well!) And I tried to think about how far I had come instead of how far I still had to go. The absolute best feeling of the day was half-way through the marathon when I knew that I had only 21KM left to go and 5 hours left before the midnight cut-off. I knew that as long as I kept putting one foot in front of the other I would be an IRONMAN! From that point onward it felt like a bit of a party – the sun had gone down, the volunteers were still pumped up and all that was left was to get to the finish line and hear Reilly say those words.

So what is the weight-loss lesson here? There are many, many things in life you can’t control. But you can control your attitude. You can choose to focus on what you are doing right (I’m drinking more water, I’m eating way more vegetables) instead of on what you could have done better (damn you Pumpkin Spice Lattes!). You can focus on what is feeling good instead of what is hurting. You can celebrate how far you’ve come instead of dreading how far you still have to go. You can give positive energy to others and others will send it right back at you. None of us are perfect – we can all be doing things better or doing more, more, more – so let’s stop beating up on ourselves and try to enjoy this journey. It sounds simple, but it’s true – attitude is everything!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BOILHAM 9/17/2013 6:36PM

    Your attitude is the one thing that you totally control. So glad it worked for you. Congratulations.

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MWWENSIN 9/17/2013 2:33PM

    I strongly agree attitude is everything. Also, my fastest half marathon occured when I was cheering back at the crowd for turning out instead of focusing on trying to keep myself going.

Very motivational blog, thank you.

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KATELOSS2009 9/17/2013 12:24PM

    I'm loving your "Lessons Learned from IronMan" blogs!! Great wisdom is in these reviews... Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

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IFDEEVARUNS2 9/17/2013 10:14AM

    Thanks for this powerful lesson!

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ON2VICTORY 9/17/2013 1:44AM

    Great post... I appreciate the words of wisdom.. There is no one that can tell it like some one who has endured one of the toughest endurance events on the planet. Thanks for sharing... You ARE an Ironman!

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LISAINMS 9/16/2013 5:47PM

    Attitude IS everything. It will get you through when your body doesn't want to! What a great memory for you that he added "mother of 4" to your announcement.

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FITFOODIE806 9/16/2013 1:34PM

    Thinking about those words and then the oh so important added "mother of 4" gave me chills. What an incredible memory for you!!
I love how you thought about what you DID do instead of the more more more. Great advice!!

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BLUENOSE63 9/16/2013 11:27AM

  Attitude is everything most definitely and not only in Endurance Racing but life as well.

Good luck on the run!

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There IS No Last Place! - What I Learned from Ironman - Part 2

Monday, September 09, 2013

There IS no Last Place!

One of the things that I love most about Ironman is how everyone who finishes is celebrated. In fact, the very last finishers are the rockstars of the event. For the last hour before the midnight deadline, many of those who finished earlier in the day come back, wearing their medals and their compressions socks, to help cheer in the last few athletes. Rock music blares as the announcer whips the crowd into a frenzy – watching and waiting for the final finisher, willing them to get in on time. In many races, the first place finishers return to place medals around the necks of the last finishers. It is an event that truly celebrates perseverance.

This got me to thinking about a few things that I’ve learned over the past few years about coming in “last”. One that I love was passed along to me by a friend who is a competitive cross-country ski racer. He said that when his ski team finished last in an event they would say that they “outlasted the competition”. What a great way to look at it. For those of us who are slower athletes - why is it that we beat ourselves up about not being the fastest athletes in events? Why not celebrate the fact that long after the faster athletes are having a coffee and an ice bath we are still out there, slugging away and Never. Giving. Up.

My husband, who is one of those “natural runners” who can run a marathon in under 4 hours, ran alongside me for my first marathon last fall. I went in to the marathon with shin splints and came out of it with a stress fracture. Finishing meant being out there for almost six hours (5:45 to be exact) and by the end of the run the most painful thing on my body was my face (from grimacing so hard for so long). Afterwards, my husband said that he had new respect for “slow” runners because he’d never had a more painful marathon – the longer you are out there, the more of a pounding your body takes and the longer you have to manage your discomfort (or pain…). Marathon running does not need to be as ugly as my first experience (my Ironman marathon went much, much better), but it did remind me that athletes who “run long” test themselves in a way that athletes who “run fast” never have to. We’re not speedy, but man, are we ever tough!

Finally, one of my favourite sayings (I think I saw this one on Facebook) is: “Dead Last beats Did Not Finish beats Did Not Start”…to the end of that I’d add “beats Did Not Register”. I see so many people who don’t sign up for events because they are afraid that that they won’t do well. To that I say “who cares….register anyways!” Whether its your first 5K, graduating to a 10K, taking on a half-marathon or even taking on the full 26.2 miles, go ahead and take the plunge. Knowing that you have a goal race, you’ll be forced to google a training plan. If you don’t have time to do everything on the plan, don’t panic – you can adapt. Trust me, there will be lots of people like me right next to you…with kids and jobs and lives to juggle…who haven’t done every mile of the perfect training plan. If you get to the start line you’re already winning – you’ve beat everyone at home on the couch. Start moving, one foot in front of the other…and guess what, I bet that you’ll pass at least one person along the way. And if you don’t, well, you’ll just keep moving towards the finish line. That’s right, you will finish. And you can’t finish last because you’ve already beat everyone who didn’t sign up. And everyone who signed up but didn’t show up. And everyone who quit along the way. YOU ARE A FINISHER!!!

So, is there a weight-loss lesson in all of this? I think there is. For everyone out there beating yourselves up because the weight isn’t coming off at lightning speed (damn you Biggest Loser – why can’t we all lose 10lbs in a week in the real world?) or because you started a plan and had some hiccups and detours along the way – it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get to the finish line. You are strong because you keep trying. You have learned more about perseverance than those lucky folks who don’t struggle to lose weight. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other - you will get there and you will know so much more about yourself when you do.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BUTTERFLY-1976 9/16/2013 3:10PM

    I Love this Blog!!!

As a slower runner, I sometimes think of faster runners & wish I was fast like them. I then tell myself... they may be faster in speed, but I have endurance!!! It helps to remind me that..hey, I'm out here doing the same thing.

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ON2VICTORY 9/12/2013 5:39PM

    when you operate in the realm of 140.6, finishing is winning. great blog.

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ASHLING9 9/10/2013 11:41AM

  I've done a 72 mile skate charity event 2 years in a row now. The first year, the temperature was great and there were a lot of fast skaters that I ultimately hung in with and finished with a great time. This year, it was raining HARD and only one other skater decided to it and he was very recreational. I knew mentally we had to stay together. It took me almost 2 hours longer to finish and hurt SOOOO much more than finishing it faster.

I was a last place runner for almost 7 years before I developed some 'speed'. This post really hit home, thank you!

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OWL_20 9/10/2013 7:23AM

    YES! I'm in love with this blog. I may have to copy it and keep it somewhere to look at now and then. I'm training for a 10K--my first--and it is slooooow going. Not the training, just me. I have grander hopes of a half-marathon that were somewhat squashed from my last run (because while not awful, it wasn't the best)--but from this and a few SP friends, well, it's convinced me to take on step at a time--literally-- and try and go for it. And to enjoy myself along the way. So thanks for this!

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    great mind set - I think that people worry so much about what others think about their performance but I try hard to focus on the one thing I can control, "Was I better than last time?"
I was beating myself up because I didn't beat my previous time this weekend (and backslif a few minutes!), but i should have better perspective like your blog says - I did my darndest and crossed that line!

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MWWENSIN 9/9/2013 10:03PM

    Great points. Glad they wait for the last finisher in the ironman. That would be from 7 am to midnight right? Or did they go past midnight?

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SPARKLISE 9/9/2013 9:03PM

    emoticon blog!
I old feel the passion in your words all the way here! emoticon

Keep up the good work! emoticon

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RUNNERRACHEL 9/9/2013 8:59PM

    What an excellent blog!!!

As a slower runner, I never thought of it like that!

Celebrate our perseverance. Celebrate our heart, our desire. emoticon

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FITFOODIE806 9/9/2013 8:38PM

    Love this blog. Such a great perspective. I love the encouragement to just register. Who cares about the perfect training plan??! I needed this reminder today :)

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BOILHAM 9/9/2013 7:19PM

    What a great point of view. I love this blog. If you have a minute you might want to read my blog "World's Greatest Athlete - Not" wherein I grumble about how slow I am. I like your attitude better. You are right, we slower runners are out there longer and showing a lot of spunk, good for us!!

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LISAINMS 9/9/2013 4:53PM

    Yesterday I walked a half marathon with my husband. I would much rather run and be done that much sooner! I was tired of being out there, my hips were hurting (I'm not used to walking that much) and it was super hot. So I have a new appreciation for people who finish in the back. It's hard! I will do my first full IM next September. All of the other races I have done, it seems the last few people in get the most celebration. Most of us regroup at the finish to cheer them in. I think it is that community spirit that makes triathlon different and a reason why I really love it. Re: BL 10# weeks... if only!!

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BLUENOSE63 9/9/2013 4:50PM

  Wow, you must be wearing your smart pants today! Great post neighbour.....not that anything in there was directed to me emoticon

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IFDEEVARUNS2 9/9/2013 4:47PM

    Thanks, I needed this! You are so right! emoticon

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What I Learned from Ironman - Part 1

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

One Step At A Time....

I've had quite the journey over the last few years from the couch to finishing my first Ironman. Along the way I've learned alot about myself and about endurance training in general (as well as a whole lot of unpleasant things about saddle sores, chafing, various ways in which the body can give out on you...none of which I'll share here...:))

I was never athletic growing up - not at all. Never joined teams, never ran for pleasure, not much of a biker - nothing. It took me almost fourty years to discover that there is a bad-ass, stubborn, strong, relentless, tough athlete inside of me. She's not skinny. She's not fast. But she can accomplish things that would take your breath away.

Five years ago I struggled to finish a 5K and if at that time someone had told me that I could run a marathon, let alone run a marathon after swimming 4KM and biking 180KM, I probably would have died laughing. It was small steps (and a few audacious leaps) that let me to Ironman. Doing a terrible 5K where I had to walk huge sections of it turned into wanting a do-over and running a slightly better 5K, that led to a 10K and the next year a half-marathon. Fast-forward to three years ago and some friends and I went down to Lake Placid to volunteer at the Ironman. As I stood about 200 metres from the finish line watching the last few dozen athletes drag themselves to their moment of glory before the midnight cut-off I realized that some of them looked like me. They weren't freaks of nature with 8% body fat (most of those people had finished hours before). I had a lump in my throat and goosebumps on my arms. The first seed was planted - I could never do a full Ironman - but maybe a half?

So, I signed up for a sprint triathlon and an olympic distance triathlon that Summer as well as a half-Ironman the following summer. In training for those events I discovered that I was a decent swimmer and a very strong cyclist. The running still sucked, but at least it wasn't the only thing I was doing. When I completed that half-Ironman last year I was completely exhausted, but somewhere in my brain I knew that if I trained hard enough I could do a full one.

It all came together one step at a time. Achieving one goal led to the next. One long training session led to another. Distances built. Speeds increased (sometimes). And suddenly the unimaginable became attainable.

My darkest moments on the Ironman course were when I would let me mind get ahead of me and think..."I've already been at this for 6 hours and I'm not even half done!!!! I still have 2 hours on the bike and then I need to run a freaking Marathon!" When those thoughts came I would settle in and follow the advice that a friend who has done multiple Ironmans gave to me. Just get to the next aid station. Don't think beyond that.

In weight loss I think there is a lesson there. Don't think about the 50lbs that you have to lose - just get to the end of the meal, to the end of the day, to the end of the week. Bit by bit you will get there.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

JCBRITT 9/10/2013 9:31AM

    I bet we were both at the Lake Placid IM. I was up visiting my sister who has a second home there and the IM happened to be at the same time. We got up to cheer on the swimmers and watched over the course of the day, the bikers, and then the runners coming in...everyone was a winner...thanks for the inspirational information...I am a wannabe..I am active but can't seem to lose the weight so I run anyway...I am a decent swimmer and was told I have biker thighs..LOL.. along the same lines of your way to eat an bite at a time..

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MWWENSIN 9/9/2013 9:47PM

    Congratulations on your accomplishment. As long as you can train your body appropriately and not listen to the mind you can do anything. You are a great example of that.

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IFDEEVARUNS2 9/9/2013 4:48PM

    What an accomplishment!

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JOYFULSPIRIT920 9/4/2013 7:32AM

    Wow, what amazing accomplishments in just 5 years.
I'm at the 4.5 year mark & I am no where near Ironman scratch that IRON WOMAN capacity. You ROCK!!
I'm excited to read more of your story. You are inspirational.

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RENATA144 8/31/2013 6:31PM

  You are a Dynamic & emoticon person !!! A true Inspiration !!!
emoticon emoticon emoticon

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ON2VICTORY 8/30/2013 7:23PM

    the mental game is as big or even bigger than the physical. I found that my mind hits the eject button long before my body is truly ready to quit. One thing I did during my 70.3 was that as soon as i was done with one discipline, I wiped the fact that I did that from my mind, like I just started biking not having done the swim, or running with no thought to the fact that I just did 56 miles. If I let myself think too much, there were issues. Congrats on finishing one of the toughest endurance events on the planet... you are an IRONMAN!

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ROXYCARIN 8/30/2013 4:03AM


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AJB121299 8/30/2013 12:32AM


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JOGSWITHDOGS 8/29/2013 10:51PM

    Great job. What an accomplishment! Thank you for this inspirational post. I like how you used your less-than-stellar results on a 5K to propel you to greater accomplishments. Now that you've awoken your inner athlete, there's no telling what you can do.

A couple of years back, I volunteered at an aid station at the local Ironman. It was an amazing experience. Very humbling. But not enough to make me want to do anything more than sprint tris. I'm quite content to do an hour and half or so of effort, then find the snack tables. Hmm. Maybe that's why I'm here.

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NJPRINCESS9091 8/29/2013 9:03PM

    Good blog!

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SKC123 8/29/2013 6:46PM

    Wow! I've been contemplating a 5K, but haven't really made the leap to sign up yet. A bit of fear, I guess. Reading your blog makes me realize I have no excuses. Thank you for posting this!!!

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AGGIEKBEAR03 8/29/2013 6:14PM

    I REALLY love how you put it! Sometimes all you can do is think abou the next tree, stoplight, corner, etc. That method has gotten me through numerous runs! What an AMAZING accomplishment! Congratulations!

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TORTORAR 8/29/2013 4:30PM

    Holy cow! I so want to do an Ironman but I know I am not ready to make the time to train. Kudos to you on balancing work, your kids, and training! I have run marathons and find training for that at times to be a struggle. Good luck in the Chicago Marathon - if you haven't done that one previously it is truely an amazing time!

And thanks for the fantastic advice at the end of your blog. I have never thought to just think about getting to the end of the meal but that makes it so much easier than thinking about losing x number of inches or pounds!

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JACKIE542 8/29/2013 3:44PM

    emoticon Amazing.

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SUZIPAM1 8/29/2013 2:56PM

    i cant do what you do but i totally admire what you have achieved

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LAURAJANE273 8/29/2013 2:18PM

    Very inspiring! :)!

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GARDEN_GNOME 8/29/2013 12:41PM

    I love this blog post!! WTG on your accomplishment and it makes me feel like one day, I'll be able to do something similar :) thanks!

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JRRING 8/29/2013 10:56AM


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BUTTERFLY-1976 8/29/2013 10:38AM

    Great Blog!! Congrats on finishing an Ironman!! So inspiring!

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SEABREEZE64 8/29/2013 9:11AM

    Very impressive.
Congratulations on this major accomplishment.

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    Very inspiring story! Thanks for sharing your journey.

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FITFOODIE806 8/29/2013 7:33AM

    Wow! Such a great blog. Congrats on so many major accomplishments. An Ironman is a serious feat. I can't wrap my head around the serious training involved. Congrats on the whole journey!

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JACKIE15108 8/29/2013 4:06AM

    This is an inspiring story for me! You are an inspiring person

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    congrats - this is an amazing athletic accomplishment! So inspiring to read! emoticon

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LISAINMS 8/28/2013 4:53PM

    Great blog!

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ILOVELUCY35 8/28/2013 9:53AM

    You are such an amazing woman and athlete. You give me hope as well as great motivation to continue forward on my own journey. I can't wait to read more.

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