It was October 2005 when I heard about the Ironman World Championships taking place online. I was in the Nova medical library studying for my exit exams for graduate school and I was a few months away from running my very first marathon in Miami. I couldn't help but get on the computer to watch whatever was online at that time and although only having completed about 4-5 triathlons, I just felt like I needed to sign up for the Ironman. Not knowing what the training would be like or what's needed to complete an Ironman, November came and I registered myself for Ironman Florida (with my friend Carlos also joining me in this crazy adventure).
I remember calling my parents and they thought I was crazy. Covering 140.6 miles in one day seems impossible for the human body and I knew that...and that's why I wanted the challenge.
After running my first marathon, I qualified for the Boston Marathon. After learning about my accomplishment, I was addicted. I loved the journey of seeing where my body could take me both physically but also mentally and I couldn't wait to train for my very first Ironman.
After completing the 2006 Boston Marathon in April, I went on to finish my first half ironman in Disney in May. After I recovered, I was 100% focused on training for my first Ironman. I found a pre built plan for free on the internet and I followed every part of it.
I went into IMFL with a goal.
To qualify for the Ironman World Championship.
I told my friends and Karel (who I was dating starting May 2006) and my parents and many people thought I was crazy...not only for running a marathon after swimming 1.2 miles and biking 112 miles but also for setting such an ambitious goal for myself.
I never once thought the goal was crazy. I was motivated by my goal every day and the challenge made me excited. I never felt confident that it would be a breeze to win my age group and receive the 1 slot in the 20-24 age group for Kona but I also didn't let my worries keep me from dreaming big.
I never got the chance to write a race report from my first Ironman because I started my blog in 2007. But I remember IMFL like it was yesterday. I remember the fears, the mixed emotions and uncertainties of what the day would be like during this well-known endurance event.
I also remember that with all the thoughts going on in my head as to the unknowns, I was so happy that I could finally experience what an Ironman was all about. And, if all went well, I was going to be an Ironman finisher!
Nearing the 1 week countdown until I participate in my 3rd Ironman World Championship, I still have the same emotions as I did with my first Ironman. I smile because I love what I get to do with my body and I enjoy the day that I prepared myself for. Although a bit more confidence and experience in my Ironman brain and body, I still respect the distance just like I did for my very first Ironman. #1 goal is always to finish, #2 goal - execute.
No matter what type of athlete or fitness enthusiast you are, you must pursue a goal that makes you excited to wake up every day to see what the day will bring. Do not fear how long it will take you to reach that goal for the day will come anyways, you may as well make the most of your days on earth. Do not let others tell you what is not possible and don't be afraid to show yourself what is possible. Do not give up when things get hard and don't let yourself think that every day will be easy.
Doing something for the first time is scary and the first step is always the hardest. You will make mistakes along the way and you will have setbacks. Many people get excited for a goal but never start the journey because of the uncertainty ahead.
If you are driven by goals, you will find yourself always making progress. But you have to start in order to see what you are capable of achieving and you can never give up if you want to feel success.
As I reflect on my very first Ironman, I am reminded of some things that still make me smile and I'd like to use this blog to remember some highlights of my very first Ironman.
-It was around 40 degrees at the race start and super windy. I told Karel (my boyfriend of 6 months) that "the IM is hard enough, why does it have to be windy!" Still today, I have yet to beat the wind so I don't try.
-I saw chicken broth was on the run course from the athlete guide. I was worried that what if I craved soup on the run....but I'm a vegetarian!?! I put a can of vegetable soup in my special needs run bag. However, I didn't use it and good thing - I didn't put a can opener in my bag!
-I was at a low moment on the bike course around mile 70 - 80. I finally warmed up but the bike was feeling long. Wouldn't you know...there was Karel and my parents waiting for me in the middle of nowhere. Thumbs up for being at the right place at the right time!!
-My tummy wasn't feeling so good at the start of the marathon. I made 2-3 stops at the potty in the first 3 miles of the race. I finished the marathon on pretzels and water. I'm ever-so-grateful for port-a-potty's on race courses.
-After riding 112 miles, I couldn't believe that I just rode 112 miles. I never rode that far before and less than a year before that, I was scared to clip-in my pedals and not comfortable on my aerobars. I felt like I had already accomplished so much before I even started the run.
Around mile 20 or so, I was getting closer to the end of the race. I had secured my Kona spot and 1st place age group win by 50 minutes. I felt absolutely amazing on this run course and I got by with the help of spectators, my family and the other athletes. I saw Karel with a few miles less to go and he yelled to me as he was running on the sidewalk "Babe - you are going to Kona!" and I yelled back "I can't believe it...I LOVE YOU!!"
That was the very first time I told Karel that I loved him.
-After a massage and a few slices of pizza, we walked back to our condo and I was sore as can be. I could barely walk and I had never felt such soreness in my life. But I insisted on going back to watch the final finishers. Karel joined me. I hobbled my way back as I felt the need to watch those final finishers finish the race. The race that we all started together and with everyone having their own reason for finishing and refusing to give up when the mind and body say enough is enough. It is now my goal to watch every finish line in an Ironman that I finish. I've only missed one (Kona 2007) but I don't plan on ever missing another IM finish line.
The feeling was surreal. A dream in the making. A goal that others told me was not possible for a swimmer, turned runner turned triathlete. I had this vision in my head as to what it would feel like to earn a Kona slot but never could I comprehend what it would feel like to cross the finish line as a first time Ironman finisher.
Seven years later and six ironman finishes behind my name, I still get excited, happy and curious as to what body can do on race day.
With Ironman #7 happening in 8 days, I hope that you are also counting down the days to watching the most inspiring event that you will ever witness and getting yourself excited to set a new goal for yourself. As you watch athletes from the world discover their limits and overcome obstacles on race day, remind yourself that the drive to succeed is from within and finishing a race is the culmination of weeks and months, if not years, of hard work.
With your goals, you do not have to prove anything others so instead, set your goals for yourself. As you watch the IM world championship online (all day), dare to dream big for yourself and never waste a day working hard for what you want in life.