(I may have already written much of this info in past posts but it is on my mind again today and I get a bye on this because I am..well....aging..lol)
Can't remember when I went from "I do Triathlons" to "I am a Triathlete" but the metamorphosis was slow, subtle and a work in progress.
My first race was in 2001, the year that my oldest sister died. She was 52 y.o., I was 47. These two things had no relationship at the time. I had the dream of "maybe doing a Sprint Triathlon" some day after witnessing the Finish line at Kona, quite by accident in 1997. We were suppose to go to St. Thomas in the Caribbean in October that year to attend a law conference for H's career. There was a hurricane on the Island the week we were suppose to go to the Carribean, so somehow we ended up in Kona, Hawaii for the long weekend. It was fate. I never even knew what an "Ironman Triathlon" was, much less that the World championships were in Kona, HI every October. We had been sort of watching the event live on TV the day of the race in our hotel. It looked pretty intense and cool. On a whim we ended up in a restaurant at the finish line that evening. I am pretty sure we couldn't get in that easily these days! I witnessed in awe the athletes crossing the line after this mega event of swimming, biking and running. I seriously could not believe it..who does these things?! These must be super humans, built with super powers or something..I was in tears watching as these fit specimens of men and women crossed the line with Mike Reilly announcing with each individual as if they had won the race, "(fill in the blank), You are an Ironman!!" Mike Reilly you see, is the "voice of Ironman." He has announced all the WTC Ironman races and finishes for the past 25 years. So when Mike says your name at the end of this long day, you know you have made it, you have won in your own right! There was nothing farthest from my mind that I would indeed be one of those people crossing the line at an Ironman race someday. Sipping cocktails on the beaches of Hawaii were more my style at that time..Little did I know...
Fast forward 4 years..I began "The Dream" of "doing"a Sprint Triathlon, which means in short I wanna just finish the damn thing... Just a short little race but monumental in my mind..I was in my mid forties and well, my mom taught me from a very early age that you can do anything you put your mind to. You can will yourself to do most anything. I had an employer tell me once as I was walking out the door You are too smart for this job. Find something you think is too hard..and do that! This boss was an asshole to work with but his words never left me..I was in my mid forties and thought why not? I can swim, bike and run...if I put my mind to it.. I saw an ad for a Women's Triathlon Camp in Boulder, the triathlete capital of the world. It was a 4 day workshop with an ex Triathlon Pro. I went with my Mountain Bike, if I remember right or maybe my new low end road bike, which was all I had at the time..The last thing we did in the camp was a "Mock Triathlon" with a pool swim, followed by a bike and run. I thought I was going to die...literally at the end. But I did it and knew I could do my first Sprint Tri a few weeks later. Yes, I felt like I was drowning in the first open water swim I swam at my first race, thought the bike course (13 miles) were the hardest biking I have ever done and well...running 3.1 miles in 104 degree heat in Dexter, NM was torture..But I did it..my first triathlon race. I got 2nd place in my AG. Sure there were only 2 of us but 2nd place at my first race! I often wonder if I would have been as enamored by the Sport had I gotten 12th instead of 2nd at that first race, as I have many times. But I began to believe I had that thing, that athletic gift..maybe just a little, to do this fun little sport. After all, I could swim, which many Triathletes find a challenge. Although my first open water swim threw me for a loop because well, I forgot there were not lines at the bottom of the pool in the lake. I didn't take into consideration the fact that you have to warm up before the swim to keep from hyperventilating....I still learned a lot and kept learning with every race I undertook after that.
I got to know the woman who won first at that race and as it turned out she was a rocking runner and athlete. I kept in touch with her, she gave me such confidence that I believed that I could actually do the next level up, an Olympic distance triathlon in the summer held in none other than Las Vegas (New Mexico, not Nevada). I began practicing with and meeting other triathletes who were my heroes as well, fellow learners and believers that they too, could indeed do this thing..I did better at that race, although not fast...I did not freak out in the swim, I managed the really, really hard bike course and the hot run..I found training buddies!
The Spring and summer of 2001 was the beginning. My sister died December 27th of that year, unexpectedly from Multiple Sclerosis. My mom and dad had died in their 60s. I suppose some of my impetus to keep going with the racing was my fear..Fear of my life ending too soon as had these 3 loved ones. It just kept snowballing until one day I thought Hey I am a triathlete! It just rolled off my tongue one day as I was describing to someone what the hell I was doing training all these many hours, days, weeks, years..These past almost 13 years have been the most challenging physically for sure but also the most rewarding in so many ways. When I did my first Ironman in 2004, I was turning 50 years old, was still working in a career in my own business and had a very busy life. It can be done! Now that I am retired training feels like a job sometimes, creates much needed structure in my life I suppose. A goal, a reason to travel, a reason to not lay on the couch in front of the TV and eat potato chips as I watch my retirement years waning...
I won't go into details of all my racing experiences here but since then I have done at least 52 races including running races, Triathlons-Sprints, Olympic, half Ironman distance and Ironman distance races..I picked that thing that was too hard to do, and did that. Which ultimately ended up being an Ironman. I am about to embark on my 6th Ironman race. Last Ironman, Arizona in 2012 was One for the Thumb..For what reason am I doing my 6th? Well, after we got the email inviting us to participate in the "Asia-Pacific Championships" i.e.; Ironman Melbourne in March 2014, how could I resist?? A race in Australia again, one of my favorite places ever..on earth? Yes, sure we will send you that mega money to feel tortured for 14 hours-why not? I caved..big time..I am still hooked on crossing the finish line and the complete satisfaction that I can still do that thing that is too hard!
So today I gaze out of the window in our little Condo in Tucson, where we live for the next 4 weeks because we want to train in warmer weather for a few weeks. This just may be first hint of becoming snow birds, I suppose. It is pouring down rain today, hmm a good day to take off I think, although with IM Melbourne looming in the short future, any missed workout may mean a minute more of fatigue in the race...My dilemma today, whether to swim or not..I am one lucky lady to have this be my challenge of the day!
I am learning to accept that I am almost 60 years old, for crying out loud. I need chiropractors, massage therapists, rheumatologists, alternative doctors for alternative joint shots, just in order to keep this aging body going in order to do such taxing things to it..the last doctor looked at me after diagnosing many back issues, some age related, some genetic and said And how long are you planning to do this running? Eeekkk..didn't need to hear that..**Fingers in ears***lalalala...Until after March, thank you. Just fix me now, for crying out loud!
And as ever, I always say this is my last Ironman! But in all honesty unless I figure out what else to to with my time, energy and challenge in life..it will probably be there..maybe...In the meantime let's go for a swim in the rain!