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What I Learned from Ironman - Part 1

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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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SEABREEZE65 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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