Thursday, September 27, 2018


Today was not the day I had expected it to be. And the race on Sunday isn't going to be the race I had hoped it would be since it will be missing one big, wet, 2.4 mile section of it - which is the swim portion of the Ironman. Due to heavy rain, flooding, and unsafe waters, the decision was announced today that the swim portion of Ironman Chattanooga will be cancelled this year.

It has been a tough one to swallow. And not just because my sore throat came raging back today after spending portions of the day crying. It sucks. I am disappointed. I am really, really disappointed if I am being honest. I love to swim and I had been looking forward to just getting into the water, zoning out, and doing my thing for the past few weeks. It was part of my race plan to use the swim to warm up, focus my mind, and get myself ready for the day ahead.

And more than that, I wanted to have this experience of racing an Ironman. An Ironman made up of swimming, biking, and running. I want to be a part of the group of people - not who have the label of Ironman - but who have experienced the mental and physical challenges it takes to go from one element to the other in these distances.

But that's not what my race day has given me. And that's part of how this works.

When I started training, I did so with the fact in mind that you don't know what will happen on race day. Race day is one day. But training is months and months of sacrifice, hard work, and pushing yourself beyond what you thought your limits were. One friend gave me the advice to try not to get burnt out in training and to focus on what I needed to do in order to get to the start line healthy and in one piece.

While I agree that getting to the start line healthy is the main goal - I had a different mindset. Race day is one day. One day where anything can happen - much of which can be out of your control.

I wanted to do hard, challenging, BIG things during training and wanted to toe the line already feeling accomplished and proud and like a rock star. I knew back in July that doing two 100 mile bike rides back to back on a Saturday and Sunday was not an essential part of training to be able to complete an Ironman.

I knew back in August that doing a Half Ironman distance triathlon on one day followed by an Olympic distance race the next day was not a key component of standard Ironman training.

I knew in the beginning of September that I didn't NEED to have a +8 hour / 140 mile bike day, or complete a total of NINE bike rides of 100 miles or over this summer in order to feel like I could complete the race.

I did those things because I knew that they would make me feel like a complete and total badass before race day even occurred. I did those things because I wanted this entire journey to be about doing things I had never done before, beyond just on race day itself. I did them to challenge myself. To push hard. To go beyond my limits in training, as well as in racing. To take things on with friends, support one another, grow, and become stronger. I did those things because I knew that there would be so much that I might not be able to control on September 30th so I wanted my first Ironman experience to be about more than just that day. I did those things during training because in reality, the journey can be more than the destination.

I'm disappointed. For sure. But I am so proud of myself too. And I am so thankful for the days that have led up to this point. I am so amazed at what my body has accomplished this summer and what my mind has been brave enough to attempt. I am tremendously thankful for the bonds and relationships that this journey has formed.

Will I feel like an Ironman when I cross the finish line on Sunday? I honestly am not sure. I am nervous about that and if this change in the race will change that finish line feeling that I have been craving and visualizing for so long. I am scared about the forever asterisk I will need to put on my first Ironman race experience. But I'll deal with that when I get there.

Tomorrow morning my mom and cousin fly in to come see me. Saturday my boyfriend and many, many friends head to Chattanooga to support me. Sunday I will see the smiling faces of so many people who inspire me and make my life fun and happy throughout the course. These things mean so much more to me than a finish line ever could.

And there are silver linings where ever you look. (1) I am so thankful that I was up in Chattanooga and at the athlete's briefing where the swim cancellation was first announced. It was an incredible shock, but I was able to hear all of the details first hand and be the first to know. I would have been spastic digging around for information if I had heard via Facebook or some other way. (2) With the new time trial type bike start, I'll get to start the ride within minutes of my training buddy, Gerke. We are going to have a blast. (3) Chattanooga Ironman is already unique in that the course is 4 miles longer than the traditional 140.6. - at a total of 144.6 miles. So, even with the swim getting cut - we are still racing MORE than official Ironman distance! (4) We will be a part of something unique. I think this is likely the first 142.2 distance Ironman  EVER - and that is something that is sticker/t-shirt worthy in my opinion! (5) It could be much, much worse. The race was cancelled due to safety. This is small in the grand scheme of things.

And finally, despite the fact that I said "it's only your first once!" ... for (6) in a way, I feel like next year, I will get to have this experience again. My next race will still kind of be my first! I am reminding myself that there is no rush to claim the 140.6 swim-bike-run distance. Ironman is not going anywhere. I can be patient and extend the joys and the rush experience of participating in this sport and reaching new accomplishments for a long time.

So, in recap... not what I thought the day was going to be like when I woke up this morning. But what ever is? Some of the best experiences in life are not what we first expected them to be.

On to Chatt!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

It's only your first once

Well, I am officially in taper and the big part of training is over. My next week and a half is very light, as it should be, and my race is just days away at this point. I can hardly believe it and I get very emotional and sappy when I sit down and really think about it.

The last month or so of training was truly incredible. August and the beginning of September were truly emotional highs and days and weeks I will never forget. As I entered into the last months of training, the last final builds and heavy weeks, the race started to feel real and I started for the first time to truly feel like "I am doing this!"

As the workouts got longer, and the weeks got heavier, I started to hit points that were new territory for me. Coming into this year I had very purposely hit milestones in the years before to get myself to feel ready. I had ridden a century, I had swam 3.1 miles, I had done half Ironmans and I have run marathons before. A lot of what I was doing was not super unfamiliar to me (with the exception of weekends like the double century weekend.)

Then came August. And the weekend after my birthday I hit the milestone of riding my bike "Ironman distance" for the first time of 116 miles (the distance of the Chattanooga bike course.) Labor Day weekend, I did my first 8 hour bike ride on ITL "Big Bike Day" where I rode my bike ONE HUNDRED FORTY MILES in one day. 140 miles! I had to spell that out there because there is no way to capitalize numbers.

I suddenly became so stunningly aware that I would only be hitting these firsts ONE time. Never again will I ride "Ironman distance" for the first time. Never again will I go 8 hours, what feels like an ITL Ironman right of passage, for the first time. I became SO aware and so conscious of this that it made me feel all of the emotions and feel happy and sad and nostalgic and excited and I felt like I was truly living in the moment and enjoying every step and every pedal stroke in this process.

At this point I have run 6 marathons. In a week or so I will have to start saying "I have run 6 standalone marathons" to distinguish my marathon-marathons from Ironman which includes a marathon at the end of the race. (Yes, I am aware how ridiculous this all is. Who does any of this stuff?! Don't people know you can sleep in on weekends?!) But anyways, I have done 6 marathons and each of them are special and wonderful for different reasons. Hitting milestones like going sub-4, getting a huge PR, and even just finishing, are all special and wonderful feelings... but nothing compares to running your first. You can only do your first one time.

It has been years since I ran my first 5K. Yet I can still picture that day so vividly. The training for it, what it felt like, what I did afterwards, who I celebrated with. I can tell you those exact things for each of my "first" races. I'm not a stranger to "firsts" so to say.

So I know! I know how special it was to bike those first 116 miles. I know how special it is going to be on race day and that however many Ironmans I do in the future, this one will stand out.

The long days. The people I trained with and pushed through those long days. The friends and loved ones who have supported me and talked me through all of the ups and downs. These are people that will forever be engrained in the fabric and story of my life. You don't go through an experience like these without that carving a spot for the people along with you into your being forever.

I have been feeling overly sappy and I am okay with that. I would rather feel sappy than anxious and I'm ready for what's to come and the experience of race day. Logistically, still of tons of junk to do (Ironman requires STUFF)! But mentally, I am eager for the day to be here. Taper has been tough and I have started to feel overwhelmed, anxious, tired, and just all the emotions one can possibly feel, but trying to focus on the positives and the feelings of happiness and excitement.

Just before writing this, I reread my blog entry from my first marathon. I wrote that I wore a bracelet during the race that I had bought in Nice, France on my travels before the marathon. It said "Que du bonheur" which means "Only happiness" in French. Only happiness.

That may be my new mantra for the next week. Despite whatever happens, you can only do your first once. Only happiness.