I did it. I am a 4X full Ironman finisher. And I conquered one of the toughest courses on the circuit.
Why did I chose this race? As you all know, I live to inspire others to come out of your comfort zones to promote personal growth and evolution— to feel fully alive. And while I know that for many of you this will never authentically involve completing an Ironman triathlon, you can still be encouraged to look within and consider how you too can live your fullest life by taking risks and setting big goals.
As a coach, I also aim to throw myself “in the trenches” to be able to keep acquiring new methods to reach my athletes. It can be a humbling experience, but one I feel strongly about for my learning process.
So last year, after seeing the pictures from the Ironman Saint George 70.3 I felt a nudge to take on the full distance again— this time as a solo adventure, with completely different training and racing. I knew everything about it would be hard: the long winter training (although I did not anticipate the winter lasting until I left for the race!); not only training solo, but navigating all of the ups and downs of the entire experience alone; and then racing on an unfamiliar course with some of the toughest conditions with the most climbing in the US. And I know I need to do real, raw hard things to live authentically as the inspiration I desire to be.
I will tell you— this was hard.
And absolutely worth it.
The lessons I learned will continue to trickle into each week’s messages as I get some more sleep and wrap my head further around the entire experience. But, I wanted to give you a short report of my day, since you all were so encouraging and supportive leading up to the race.
The three main lessons I learned (that are on the top of my brain after three hours of fitful sleep):
- Unfamiliar territory is far out of my comfort zone. (More on this in later weeks!)
- The support and camaraderie in triathlon means A LOT to me. I will be forever thankful for my amazing husband who supports me in all of my endeavors, but I did miss having the training and racing experience with friends, family, and teammates.
- While I love the challenge of the full, I am better suited for the 70.3 distance race (or at least I enjoy it much more).
This race was one of the first of two World Championship races for this year, and so the organization and hype was elevated. I thought the logistics would be trickier to navigate, but IM really had a well-oiled machine. And our travel was smooth and drama free, so that was fabulous!
A quick recap on race day:
My start time was 7:47am, but we had to board a shuttle bus to the park at our 4:45am assigned time. So Jamie dropped me off early and I made some friends while waiting. I was pretty nervous about the water temperature after the practice swim was 59 degrees and cold. But when it was time everyone else just started swimming and so did I. The swim was uneventful, other than some really cold patches and some whiny thoughts about how long the Ironman swim feels. I finished in about the exact time I assumed I would based on my training.
After shivering through T1, I headed out on my bike. I knew that patience would pay off on this course (which was very hard for me to have after racing so many 70.3s!). But, with almost no outdoor riding and never having ridden the course, I knew my confidence was also just a tad lower than usual for the full distance. This led to me to hold back a bit more than intended in the first half of the race. I feel like it still likely paid off— especially when climbing the hardest, hottest, longest hill at mile 100. I felt strong and smart passing so many people uphills all day with little effort. There were literally no flat parts of this course, you were either climbing or screaming downhill. And as the winds picked up it got really scary for me! I need some wind bike handling work for sure. I felt like I had nailed the effort, my nutrition, and my hydration on the bike.
As I came out of T2 my legs felt tired and a bit more wobbly than usual, but I felt overall okay and ready to run. Until I started running. It was sunny and 90 degrees. And since I doubt many of you want all of the details, I will just say that I suffered from “GI distress.” In my 20 half ironman and prior three full races I have struggled with this issue often, but never this early on in the run. I am guessing the lack of heat acclimation had started sneaking up during the bike, and although I thought I was hydrating well, something was still off.
I spent about four miles mostly walking—frustrated and wrestling with my pride, while also recalling my Ironman WI race in 2013 when things got really bad with my stomach at mile 20. I knew I was fearful of that happening again, and wondered if I should just pull myself out of the race.
Thankfully, I brought myself back to the present by remembering my “why.” I truly didn’t show up for a time goal, but to inspire and gain empathy by doing hard things. And this was just the hard thing of the moment. And, at the time, although I was unable to run without the risk of shitting myself, I was able to walk at a good clip. After adjusting my attitude I had a renewed vigor. I met two wonderful men, and we talked all things life while encouraging each other to run the downhills. I reconnected with my body and took in what I could for hydration and sodium (but no food, which made post race interesting!) But I just kept shuffling along.
I crossed the finish line with my slowest Ironman time, but happy to be a finisher— especially when I found out there was nearly a 20% Did Not Finish (DNF) rate. I crossed, gave one of my new friends a hug, took a picture with my medal, found Jamie, gathered my stuff, and went home to 136 text messages from wonderful friends and family.
And I felt and still feel that I accomplished the goal I set out to reach. And although in many ways I missed having the experience alongside the familiar, I know I grew more by coming out of my comfort zone.
I hope this inspires you to do the same.